Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Rockport Prowalker

“Form and function are a unity, two sides of one coin. In order to enhance function, appropriate form must exist or be created.”
– Ida P. Rolf (1896–1979), U.S. biochemist, physical therapist

“…truths are illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions, metaphors which have become worn by frequent use and have lost all sensuous vigour, coins which, having lost their stamp, are now regarded as metal and no longer as coins.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher

Lionized for their durability and comfort, Rockport’s illustrious Prowalker packs name recognition and street-cred all the way from speckled retirement home linoleum to school yard black top. A friendly Nordstrom’s shoe salesman named Robert told me the design hasn’t changed in 30 years, and I believe him. They are like a tradition everyone can agree on, and truly, who could disagree with a tradition of comfort, pragmatism, and class.

In all fairness, these are old guy shoes. The majority of the pairs that have been produced in the world are most commonly found at early-bird specials getting cozy with the tennis balls affixed to the bottom of walker legs. This demographic trend only adds to their appeal. I refuse to reach old age only to repeat the same tired maxim, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now.’ Clearly if most old people had it all to do over again, they would have started in with the ultra-comfortable shoes at a much younger age.

But let us turn toward a discussion of style: the prowalker’s cool beige austerity and sleek, classical contours evoke at once the lazy, ‘I don’t give a what-what’ bravado of a satin smoking jacket as well as the humble wisdom of a herringbone tweed coat, or say, any hat with no bend in the brim at all. It’s just like my man Kev say about the downtown Tampa skyline: “Casual, but classy.”

The Prowalkers maintain a solid, unwavering beige-grey—in a crayola crayon set, this color would be ‘apple IIcx’ or maybe ‘old computer’—a color only off-set by a thin eighth-inch thick strip of darker, brownish leather running parallel to the lace ladder on both sides – a solitary, understated racing stripe that achieves greater profundity in it’s restrained announcement from underneath swaths of imbricated leather siding. The Prowalker doesn’t have to speak loudly to be heard. These shoes are hella comfortable with their own sexuality.

As with most things in this world with any sack at all, the whole Prowalker is greater than the sum of its parts. The Prowalker’s appeal begins at the apotheosis of functionality. As soon as you get these puppies broken in, however, this pure celebration of pragmatism gives way to an aesthetic glorification of this once earnestly coveted functionality. Functionality is trumped by the aesthetic of functionality. This, of course, is nothing new. This concept lies at the heart of all geek fashion as co-opted by non-geeks. I already know what you’re thinking: I should go get my fanny pack right now. That would be, like, the same thing. Or better yet, I’ll get that old elastic wrap around thing that attaches to the ends of a pair of glasses so they can hang around my neck and not be lost (definitely look for an entry on this accessory in the future). Yet, the Prowalker confounds this simple arithmetic of cool: spend yet another six months breaking-in and buddying-up to these kicks and you will find that the unadulterated glory of practical comfort re-asserts itself with a vengeance. This usually happens after living in these shoes while touring one or many foreign countries. Good for cobblestones as well as formal dinners. Impromptu Foursquare tournaments and black-tie fundraisers. If you are like me, the two sides of your foursquare/black-tie fundraiser coin tend to run together, if not right plum into one another head-on. Yes, The Prowalker endures and will continue to endure as an elegant, tumbling marriage of form and function.

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