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Vintage Fridays: The Case for Patina

Ain’t nothing better than new kicks, right? Don’t want any scuffs on them, or God beware! glue stains and a yellowed-out upper. Everything has to be pristine and sparkly-clean. But what if you are into vintage kicks? Models that haven’t been retroed in over ten years? Brands that are no longer existent?

To be fair, expecting great quality for new shoes is of course only reasonable, especially at a time when many brands still decide to maintain low QC standards while asking for premium prices. For vintage collectors, however, the aforementioned issues are simply standard when it comes to hunting down older pairs and maintaining a personal archive. Even for New Old Stock pairs, this is a reality you just have to put up with. However, for some it is also a phenomenon you actually come to accept and, while maybe not actively looking for in pairs (although it is a telltale sign that a specific model is an OG rather than a recent retro), even come to cherish! How so?

See, these signs of age are inimitable traces of Time itself, traces that in the world of antiques are called patina. Patina is in essence a sheen that cannot be reproduced by any modern manufacturing or machining techniques. To be sure, brands have certainly attempted to do just this, much to the chagrin of collectors. See for instance yellowed-out mids (such as the otherwise marvelous Le Coq Sportif R800), bleached uppers to artificially mimic the impact of UV rays (e.g. the 2019 Adidas ZX8000 Aqua Consortium), or the ludicrous phony crumbling mid on the as-yet unreleased Off-White Air Jordan 2 Low.

Why this faking of the funk fails in most cases (the 2019 Consortium Aqua was still dope af to be fair) is because it misses the main point of what vintage connoisseurs appreciate: patina tells stories of the period that birthed these shoes, even if these stories are often only imagined. It is because these pairs are old and have – or may have – been used for the purpose they were designed for, that a yellowed mid is acknowledged, and glue stains between the sole and the upper are not frowned upon.

No amount of artificial coloring and marketing bs will be able to capture that sense of age you can only derive from vintage pairs. Quite oxymoronic indeed, it is such obvious aging of the materials that takes us back to when a specific vintage pair was fresh in the box and ready to rock. Silly nostalgia it may be, but at the same time also an honest cherishing of where we come from.

In the end, patina for this author and like-minded collectors is something that should be reserved for vintage kicks; let retros look new, rather than draping them in bogus off-white. Recreate the old technologies and materials as good as possible, but refrain from artificially ageing them. For old pairs, on the other hand, one has to learn to love these flaws; as long as the shoes do not fall apart and can be acceptably cleaned off of actual dirt, issues such as glue stains are fair game.

Womft? Vintage Fridays is curated by Alex Kais, aka @armerschuster. Contact at armerschuster@gmail.com

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