In the summer between 8th grade and freshman year I acquired my first pair of umbros. It seemed that just about everyone at school had a pair, and generally they were primarily worn because you could throw them on without having to worry about waking up extra early to iron them and still look like a million bucks.
Everyone had at least two or three pair. My traditional wardrobe was shorts made from worn out pairs of jeans, or jeans I had grown too tall for and a t-shirt. I was 12 now, on the brink of womanhood, I wanted to be “in” and fashionable, I wanted to care about my appearance and what my outward self said to others, I wanted to be…cool.
My summers were previously spent playing baseball or some form thereof with the neighborhood boys or pretending to be the Veronica to my friend’s Betty. (as we all know from a previous blog post, really she was the Veronica.) This summer was different, I was going to establish an identity with the neighborhood kids that would hopefully translate into the coming school year. One way to make sure this would happen; get a pair of Umbros. Not just any Umbros you see, clearance Umbros.
These shorts were waiting there for me at the local Footlocker on the clearance rack like an apple ripe for the picking. The orange shorts with the purple trim and drawstring beckoned me in all of 5 seconds. These were my ticket to being cool; to being one of the cool kids. Forget that I was the awkward goofy tomboy who was always one of the guys, I was going to be a womanly tomboy with a new image on the road to adulthood.
Little did I know, that would all be removed in one evening after this fine purchase of brightly clown colored soccer shorts.
I had been invited over for a game of football at my friend’s grandmothers’s house. Not only would my friend be there, but so would her really cool older cousin (who we later found out had already kissed a boy and could read our palm), but so would some of the neighborhood guys who had grown up with me as the awkward nerd who was into things that most were not. It seemed at times the neighborhood kids took pity upon me or asked me over to play mainly because there was no one else around. This time, these umbros were going to change that perception, instead of taking pity upon me or being the last person asked, these shorts would inevitably turn me into the first kid asked and the least pitied kid on the block; until I got stopped before going out the door by my mother.
I told my mother of these plans. Well, I told her about playing football with friends, not necessarily everything else. It was just after dinner when she said, “Let me iron your shorts before you go.”
This was preposterous! Why would my mother thwart my plans like this? How did she not know ironing your “supposed” to be wrinkled shorts was a death sentence for anyone trying to fit in and be cool for once? Could she not read my pea brained thoughts?
Then to make matters worse, she had to iron the semi-matching shirt that accompanied the shorts. The shirt featured a very 90’s looking geometric alligator with a purple background. Bear in mind, I was only 12, but I thought it was pointless to iron something when you were going to mess it up and wrinkle it in the process of an impromptu neighborhood football game. This didn’t matter to my mother. As far as she was concerned you could come back as wrinkled as a piece of notebook paper, but you had to go out looking as neat as a bed sheet.
We had finished dinner, I was still getting ready, the only thing missing was the clothing. My friend called the house wondering where I was. When I was trying to reply, I didn’t want to lie, but at the same time I didn’t want to tell her the embarrassing truth. I bit down and told her,”I was waiting on my clothes to be ironed.” I could have just told her I got sidetracked or better, that I got tied up trying to tame a lion that escaped from the Dickerson Park Zoo and had to transport it on the back of my bicycle. No, instead I told her the truth and like all childhood best friends, she laughed.
Needless to say I was the neatest looking well kept kid in “should” be wrinkled shorts and t-shirt. I was so unwrinkled they could have called “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” when I arrived skidding in on my turquoise blue splatter painted Huffy bike. I then had to explain to the neighborhood kids what caused my delay thus further taking away any cool points I might have earned having my new and only pair of Umbros.
Needless to say, I solidified my nerd status, but at least I did it in style.
What hope did you have as a kid to change what others previously thought of you?