Buffalo in the 90s: Convenient K-Mart ad compiles every sneaker brand kids hate

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you were a kid in the 1990s, a pair of Nikes or Reeboks didn’t make you any smarter or help you perform better on standardized tests.

A pair of name-brand sneakers, however, may have helped you feel equal to (or maybe even superior to) your peers.

There was a sort of sneaker caste system in most places. Nike’s Air Jordans were at the top. Then came a host of lesser brand names, followed by store brands — ranked in order of the coolness of the store, of course.

From personal experience, I can say with unflinching certitude that the lowest sneaker caste was filled with those purchased at K-Mart. I didn’t really care that my sneakers came from K-Mart or Hills, and in fact, I actually felt some pride in that my footwear cost somewhere around $11.94, while the Reebok Pumps or Jordans were in the $70 range. Still, it only takes one or two comments to give even the most steel-willed individualist a complex.

Sneakers in a K-Mart ad, 1986. (Buffalo Stories archives)

By the mid-’90s, K-Mart had dropped the brand names Trax and Athletix — which occasionally marred my otherwise idyllic 1980s grammar school life — but Spaulding, Everlast and MacGregor still remained.

Luckily, by the time I was in high school, and by the time this ad came out, I had switched to wearing shoes more than sneakers.  Still, one can’t help but think about how many kids wearing their Skechers (which used to be cool, kids) clipped this ad to know which sneakers — and which kids — to target.

Sneakers in a K-Mart ad, 1995. (Buffalo Stories archives)

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.