Black Converse Baseball Boots

John Squire, Waterfall (detail), 1988, oil on canvasThere are fewer more distressing sights than that
Of an Englishman in a baseball cap.

—The Libertines, “Time for Heroes”

When I was in college I spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. The guys I hung out with were from all across the British Isles, and I was impressed and sometimes intimidated by their classical education. Dudes could quote whole passages of Shakespeare and Milton like it was nothing. Over pints we would often get into discussions about American culture, or the lack thereof. Fuckers turned me from an Anglophile into a true blue patriot. My main comebacks were always: jazz, rock and roll, and hip hop. I was right, of course, but since I’d never been taught the formal principles of logic, the Brits usually won the argument. But I was right. And their Levis agreed with me.

During my breaks, I travelled extensively albeit aimlessly around the U.K. and Ireland. I had a lot of amazing experiences but was often disappointed by the gross Americanization of the cities. McDonald’s was everywhere (even if they made you pay extra for “tomato sauce”). So our culture, for good or ill, had inarguably spread across the sea.


It was obvious everybody wanted to look American. Jeans, Nikes, Sub Pop t-shirts, etc. But, as with paying 15p for a packet of ketchup, even the best imitators were just a little off. The craziest thing I ever saw was a jacket on an older man on the street. To this day I wish I had gotten a photo of it. It was a black varsity jacket that said “New York Yankees” across the back. Under that was a football helmet. The helmet was emblazoned with the confederate flag.

Think about how wrong that is for a minute. Talk about Engrish!

ChucksAnyway, the thing that got me thinking about this was the Kraftwerk feature in the recent issue of MOJO magazine. The interviewer meets Ralf Hütter backstage and notes that he is wearing “black Converse baseball boots.”

He means Chuck Taylors, of course. The classic Converse All-Star high-top. Rolled out in 1917 for basketball players.

Baseball boots? It’s just too wrong to let slide.

But it’s ubiquitous overseas. Google returns about 203,000 results for the phrase “Converse baseball boots.”

Where did they come up with baseball? On the one hand, this might just be cultural since many Americans refer to all “athletic” footwear as “tennis shoes.” Minus the “boot” part, I guess using “tennis shoes” generically is equally incorrect. Come to think of it, “sneakers” and “gym shoes” aren’t particularly accurate either.

But come on. Baseball boots? That’s fucked up.

Video: The Libertines – “Time For Heroes”

The Libertines – Time For Heroes (Official Video)

10 thoughts on “Black Converse Baseball Boots”

  1. One of my most embarrassing moments when I lived in the UK was having a guy selling the Big Issue say, “Come on and give it a try American…I know you’re a Yank ’cause you’re wearing trainers.” And it was true…I looked around the street and, seriously, I was the only person wearing sneakers just out walking around. (Although I guess today sneakers are popular among the so-called chavs, yeah?) I went out and bought my first pair of Docs the next day.

  2. “Baseball boots”. No wonder they lost the war!*

    *I’m not positive on that, as I have an American public school education. But I feel like there was probably some war they lost. And we won. USA! USA! USA!

  3. they gave us the beatles, we gave them the boot.

    it’s arguable, but i would say the english lost the culture war. so did the russians and the chinese. when history judges the 20th century it won’t be about imperialistic financial impact, but cultural impact. for better or worse, the united states got that in spades. yeah, capitalism was the driving force behind it, but the culture junk we brought to the world is what we’ll be judge on. good on us.

  4. You are not alone, Jake: a few non-ugly Americans I know, after spending a certain amount of time over there, end up going all rah-rah after a while. (Especially some Irish-Americans I’m friends with, whose stay in the Emerald Isle eventually makes them feel like dropping the first part of that appellation.)

  5. It’s like the Uncanny Valley of societies – there’s just enough of our transplanted culture overseas to weird us Yanks out when we visit.

    I’ve never been to the UK, but I have to admit I would flip out if I saw a a bunch of pasty Brits wearing Chicago Bulls jerseys. And eating pork carnitas in a Chipotle. In Piccadilly Circus.

  6. I don’t really see it as a ‘war’, as it’s such an interchange of cultures. What’s a ‘true’ American look? Levi’s, waist length coat (in leather or cotton), etc. And yet much of this luck comes from our hero’s: Dean and Brando, or Elvis. And yet much of the style is English (consider THE American icon of James Dean in REBEL, he’s wearing the iconic English Baracuta jacket in red or Brando in WILD ONE rides a Triumph and mimics English cafe racers/rocker culture). It’s all so intertwined now (think about how much such an English movement like Mod derives from French New Wave) thanks to two things: cinema and capitalism. These are the cultural harbingers not specific Nationalities.

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