Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
How was I supposed to resist?
When the manufacturers allowed me to test-drive their new, astonishingly collectable sneakers, I'd surely be in a new world.
I desperately want to be cool, but I'm not quite what you might call a sneakerhead.
Not much of a sneakerfoot, either.
I wear sneakers to the gym. Otherwise, I tend not to bother with awkward, ancient things like laces. Or designer Nikes.
When Hollywood types wear sneakers with suits, I think it looks plainly silly.
Here, though, was an offer to try out the new, highly desirable K-Swiss Breaking Bad special editions.
They may retail at $80. They may have been created merely to coincide with the release of the new El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie special.
But very few were emitted into the world -- I think they call that hype or something -- and you just know that America will crave these things.
I confess I haven't watched the movie or the original show.
Everyone else I know has and believes it's one of the greatest creations ever to emerge on Planet Television. Or Planet Streaming.
Surely, then, when I put these sneakers on, everyone would ooh and coo over my feet's new look.
The sneakers arrived in a bucket with a Los Pollos Hermanos Fry Batter logo. (First coo from you, surely.)
Inside the bucket was a box adorned with bullet holes.
Please remember, this is a show about a science teacher with cancer who becomes a meth dealer in order to make ends meet and create several fine series.
Frankly, I couldn't wait to parade around in them and bathe in their slightly cream color and the distinctive maroon and orange stripes that go around them.
My credibility on the streets would surely soar. It would be as if I was now a marketing influencer.
My first steps were to Starbucks.
I stood in line. No one said anything. I began to look down at my sneakers, as if to admire them lovingly. I twisted my left foot this way and that.
Still no reaction.
Perhaps it was too early in the morning.
That day, I wore them to a Cal football game. There'd be so many young, impressionable coolerati there. At least one would surely look down at my feet, look up at my face, see the glory of Walter White and sigh.
It didn't happen. Was I wearing them wrong?
A couple of days later, I had lunch with my friend Pat. He would notice. He has an eye for extreme detail.
He said nothing. I decided to prompt:
Hey, have you seen Breaking Bad?
Yeah. Every episode. Loved it.
I lowered my head toward my feet and slowly looked up at him. He said:
I asked him if he noticed anything special about my new sneakers. He replied:
Nikes? No, wait. K-Swiss? They were really cool in the 90s. Or was it the 80s?
This was more of a struggle than I'd imagined.
When I pointed out that the design of my new sneakers reflected the design of the RV used by Walter White in Breaking Bad, Pat offered:
Oh, yeah. Cool.
He was a big fan of the show. Yet the way he said Cool almost resembled the way he might have said Sad.
This wasn't going well.
How could Pat not have felt like K-Swiss, which is breathless about these things?:
Boasting a full-grain leather upper, all the pieces of the original Classic 2000 shine in a vintage white hue similar to the siding of the RV. Signature K-Swiss remain via the three-piece toe, metal D-ring lace up, and tonal 5-stripes with accents influenced by the RV. A red, orange, and pink stripe wraps around the upper, and lining that resembles the inside of the RV.
Perhaps Pat is more Illuminati than fashionorati.
I decided to wear them to a cool San Francisco restaurant, full of highly aware types.
Fortunately, I had tickets to a Golden State Warriors game. The new arena is perched in nouveau millennial territory on San Francisco's 3rd Street.
A few minutes down the road is the fine Ungrafted restaurant. Created by two sommeliers, Ungrafted is in a perfectly millennial location.
Despite this, it serves a very fine selection of wines and very edifying food.
There were many tables of young tech types who'd spent far too much money on perfectly ordinary clothes.
My wife and I sat at the bar. I made sure to dangle one foot over the side of my stool, so that everyone who passed by could see my Bad shoes.
Not a knowing nod. Not a smile. And certainly not a "Wow. Where did you get those?"
At the Warriors game, it was the same. We walked slowly through the concourses. They're very bright.
Not a head stirred.
By now, this was maddening.
These things, you see, are precious. So few pairs were released that, as I write this, they're being sold for $500 or more on eBay.
There was only one thing for it. I'd venture to a sneaker store.
There, I'd finally garner the respect I deserved. Or rather my sneakers would.
I wandered into a store with sneakers all along one wall in an extremely hipster part of town.
Finally, a reaction.
The man behind the counter, impossibly cool though he was, instantly looked down at my shoes.
But he said nothing.
I asked him if he had my wife's size in a particular pair of multicolored Converses. He didn't.
He still didn't mention my sneakers.
I looked at all the wonderful sneakers on the walls. Each, I'm sure, had some sort of allure. None was K-Swiss.
Together, though, it was hard not to get the impression that there are simply too many alluring sneakers these days. And too many co-promotions with other entities.
(Who can forget Nike's collaboration with Spongebob?)
You're supposed to collect them as much as wear them.
Perhaps wearing them even reduces their value.
I returned home, distraught that cool would always desert me.
The next night, my wife and I went to a small art gallery for an exhibition.
I put aside the Bad's and wore what my wife calls my Liberace shoes.
They're merely laceless shoes adorned with a pattern that looks like old Vegas casino wallpaper.
As I sat cradling a just-palatable glass of wine, a man came up to me.
He was one of the exhibiting artists.
"Hey, man," he said. "Cool shoes. Where did you get them?"
"I had them specially made for me," I lied, shamefully.
I bought them on Asos.com for 35 bucks.