17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back To School Sale

I heard on NPR the other day that Stephon Marbury, star guard for the NY Knicks, has his name on a new pair of athletic shoes.

Just another day in the life of a pro athlete, you say? Well, there's a twist. His shoe, Starbury One, will retail for $15, a good hundred dollars less than the average pro athlete-endorsed sneaker. He is starting a new campaign to make cool brand name shoes affordable for all kids.

It is amazing to me how this shoe culture developed. I blame Michael Jordan and Nike for starting the phenom in the 1980's. For me, it meant that I had to cough up $100 at least once each season for a decent pair of basketball season. I was pretty much broke all through high school. Other kids have lost their lives over a pair of these shoes...we've all heard the stories.

Of course, materialism-at-all-costs and overindulgence goes beyond footwear. When I served in YW's in Queens, most of the YW were obsessed with having brand-name clothes and expensive jewelry (bling.) Most of these girls also lived in the projects and were the least able to afford these luxuries.

Now I teach SAT prep classes in one of the richest suburbs in the country. The kids drive up in BMWs and have their own college consultants, personal trainers, and masseuse. A different set of kids, a different set of status symbols, but the same powerful message: Having expensive things will make me happy....having more expensive things will make me more happy.

Which is the worst case of materialism and overindulgence, the kid from the projects with diamond stud earrings or the suburban kid in her BMW? I think society judges the kid from the projects more harshly. I know, as a YW leader, I was guilty of judging these girls and their parents for their spending choices. But now I see that the overindulgent parents of these suburban kids are showing equally bad judgement. Basically, I judge and condemn everyone equally now.

Back to the shoes....critics are harsh. They say that Marbury is doing this to improve his public image which was hammered pretty badly last season after he stopped passing the ball and got his well-respected coach fired. They say that it won't make a difference. Kids will add these shoes to their huge collection of overpriced footwear, but continue to buy their Air Jordans.

I say, finally, an athlete willing to put his reputation on the line in order to improve some serious socioeconomic dysfunction in our society. I say, I love the gesture, but even with all of the power Marbury wields as an athlete, nothing is going to change until parents teach their kids self-discipline, restraint, humility. This means that they first must adopt these values into their own lives. A parent's example is infinitely more powerful than any marketing campaign.

What do you say? Would you buy these shoes for your kids? And most importantly, how are you working to keep your kids away from this cycle of overspending and instant gratification that is all around us?


  • Not having teenagers yet, I really haven't had to deal with the problems that come with "having" to have name-brand clothing, etc. My kids are pretty ignorant when it comes to things that are available to buy. This will change shortly, I'm sure, because I recently allowed my kids to watch a kid's channel with COMMERCIALS. Commercials are evil. And now I hate them more than ever. "Mommy? I want that!"

    I think the best way to keep kids from overspending is to NOT overspend ourselves. I also like the philosophy of working for something. And how about not letting your children know how much you make so they don't expect it?

    My parents gave me the best gift of how to combat overspending and instant gratification --we were a low-income middle class family, and my parents were amazingly frugal. Never did I expect anything --I hoped for things, but I never expected it.

    Some kids can be easily influenced by their friends, social norms, COMMERCIALS, etc. but I think for the most part, kids will do what their parents show them and teach them. This applies to the rich as well as the poor (like you said). For example:

    My very, very wealthy Aunt and Uncle are paying for their daughter's college tuition and housing. Cousin never takes it for granted, works every summer, and gets straight A's. She also buys things only when she has the money and only if it's on sale. Oh, and she babysits my kids for free.

    Really good friends make a lot of money one year, build a house fit for a foreclosure, spend like crazy and end up broke back in a small apartment with their 2 kids.

    A friend who chooses to live lavishly, although she is still renting basement apartments where she can't meet rent, but doesn't hesitate to shop for nice things and go out to dinner everynight.

    Circumstances don't make one an overspender. Values do.

    (sorry about the novel!!)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 8/29/2006 11:56:00 AM  

  • Not at all a novel, thanks for your comments, Cheryl.

    I wrote this post last night and let dh look at it (he's a newspaper editor by profession) and I was complaining to him how unoriginal my message was. He agreed ... knowing better than to say so outright.

    But I think it's a good reminder that the values we choose will be our children's. And they will learn where to find happiness from us.

    Even so, I'm no better than the next mom when I find things I think I HAVE to buy....and I tend to spend more than I should on clothes for my little monkeys.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 8/29/2006 12:50:00 PM  

  • This may sound pretty extreme, but back when my husband and I were starving college students, we decided that we couldn't afford TV at all. No cable, no television, zip. We could watch DVDs on our computer if we wanted to see a movie. Three years later, we still don't have it, and I don't see us getting it anytime soon. Commercials are indeed evil. They're made to make us not just want things, but feel like we desperately need them to fill the voids in our lives.
    I avoid any advertisement rich media (magazines, tv, theme parks, etc) and since I've started my own self esteem has improved drastically, our budget is never strained, and I don't feel the need to make frivilous purchases near as much as I used to.
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 8/29/2006 01:25:00 PM  

  • We have been off of all tv for almost 2 years now too! And wow your realize the longer you don't have it, when you do see it how desnsitized we once were to all the media and commercialization splashing into our homes uninvited!
    I think it is great that someone like that is trying to make any change in the norm.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 8/29/2006 01:33:00 PM  

  • starfoxy-
    I don't think that's extreme at all --Dh and I started out without television, too. And there are still times I want to just rip the thing out of the wall...I'm still trying to convince DH that we could live without it... :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 8/29/2006 01:47:00 PM  

  • Oh, so many times (always due to kids begging to watch) have I wished for a sledge hammer to beat the tv with. I've bugged dh to try no cable for a while but because of sports and cnn, I lose.

    BUT I think I would buy the shoes. I don't know anything about the bball player or his recovering image, but I think it's great that he's trying to make "cool" clothes that parents can afford. Shoes and hoodies for ten bucks--you can't lose.

    I find that I'm less happy with what I have when I watch "a make over story" and tlc room-make over shows. Also, going to the mall reminds me how much I don't have. I don't go ofen. Old navy and other single stores don't seem to bother me so much.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 8/29/2006 05:50:00 PM  

  • I definetly think it has a lot to do with the way you're raised. My mom is a very frugal person (my husband calls her stingy). And I've never really felt the need for anything extravagent. I am less frugal than my mom, but still think that even after being out of her house for 5 years her way of living had/has an affect on me. Because my parents never had really nice things (in fact I think they only thing they bought at an actual furniture store was her their living room couch -- everything else is from thrift stores or garage sales) when I just have decent stuff I feel like I'm living the high life. It's not that my parents didn't have money, they did and still do. It's just the way my mom is.

    My husband on the other hand. His parents were constantly in debt, never had that much money, and even ended up foreclosing on their house after refinancing it like 100 times. But they lived better as far as material things go then my family did.

    There is a difference now with us being married to what we feel are our needs/wants (his needs often fall in the wants category on my list). And we've come to realize a lot of it comes from our parents.

    Now would I buy the shoes . . . if they're good shoes and my kid really wanted them I probably would. But that goes for any decent priced shoe endorsed by an athlete or not.
    posted by Blogger Trivial Mom at 8/29/2006 10:48:00 PM  

  • I am not a Marbury fan. In fact, I think Marbury represents all that is wrong with the NBA these days. But I give him credit for this move, regardless of its motivation. Marbury wasn't actually the first to put out a low priced sneaker, Shaq did that a while back. The difference is that Marbury will supposedly wear this shoe when he plays, Shaq continued wearing overpriced sneakers during his games. If Marbury follows through on that promise, I will give him huge props. It will demonstrate that the price tag on a shoe does not make it a good shoe, nor does it make the shoe "cool."

    Now, if the shoe falls apart after a week, then . . .
    posted by Blogger Todd L. at 8/30/2006 09:13:00 AM  

  • I think that the values of the parents definitely carry over to the children, regardless of circumstances. My dh's family is obscenely wealthy. We are not wealthy by their standards, even though we live comfortably within our means. When my dh talks to his father or his brother, he feels incredibly inadequate because we can't afford the fancy cars or a big, new house like the ones they're always talking about. I'm glad we moved across the country because it does hurt his self-esteem.
    Along with family, I think peer pressure plays a huge role, not just for kids. Before ds was born earlier this month, I worked in an office full of women who looked as though they were trying to be on 'Sex and the City.' It took me awhile to accept that my non-Club Monaco wardrobe was fine because, for me, being around people who constantly 'have' definitely affected my desires, far more than any advertising.
    I know nothing about the NBA or athletic shoes, so I won't comment on it.
    (By the way, dh and I both work in TV and I have an advanced degree in media, so I'm a TV/media advocate. We just upgraded to digital cable *whee*)
    posted by Anonymous VirtualM at 8/30/2006 10:11:00 AM  

  • Shaq has already been doing this for years. You can buy his shoes for about 10 bucks at Kmart (im not sure if they are at other store now too or not). As cool as it is, make no mistake, Starbury has nothing to do with this, he just showed up for the commercial shoot. Its all agent.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/30/2006 10:26:00 AM  

  • I also think the true test about this shoe is if Marbury will actually wear it himself.

    As a designer for Old Navy back in the day, all the designers would shop there. Buy clothes for themselves there, for their families, for gifts. We believed in the product we were creating. The merchandisers, on the other hand, wouldn't be caught dead wearing the product. I always though it was bad form-they were "too good" for Old Navy.

    My parents always exemplified restraint when it cam to material things. We never had the cool clothes, best car or newest gadget. It was in this environment that my clothing creativity grew out of necessity at first. It then bred a girl who is really into fashion - oh the irony.

    While I am a (recovering?) shopaholic, I do think branding is evil. And selling inferior product for more money just because it is branded is even more evil. I hope I can teach my children to value quality craftsmanship and good design instead of falling prey to logo marketing. I hope I can somehow teach them to not be defined by the clothes they wear and that "things" don't make a person happy because from my example so far, they are already becoming little fashion divas.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 8/30/2006 11:03:00 AM  

  • This does seem like a good idea, but Marbury will definitely not be wearing the same shoe, even if it looks the same. Athletes rarely wear the same gear that is sold in stores. Pro basketball athletes' shoes have different soles that wear out after a couple of weeks. The soles are much softer so they stick to the court. If kids wore those exact shoes, they would wear out in a couple days because they're not made for street use. Thus, the shoes are different and it's probably a good thing. The potentially bad part is when the only similarity is the brand. It makes brand everything.

    Another example is with tennis racquets. If anyone plays, you should know that lighter is NOT better, but it's what the consumer has been sold (e.g. Titanium). Professional tennis players use heavier racquets than the ones that look the same for purchase in stores. The only similarity is the paint used to make the racquet look pretty. In reality, lighter racquets are bad for the arm and make hitting deep shots more difficult. See:

    I'm guessing that everyone posting here would have examples of inferior products that are 1. the only thing available because of marketing trends, and/or 2. sold at a higher price simply for the brand. And we often talk ourselves into buying them anyway with the justification "I like the way it looks." I've found that with almost anything, you can find something that both looks good and works good/lasts.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/30/2006 02:19:00 PM  

  • I grew up in a welfare home and always desperatly wanted all the cool clothes my friends had. By the time I hit high school thrift store shopping was cool so I got lucky.
    Then I got married and worked at Nordstrom and had money to burn, so I did.
    Then I got pregnanat and decided to stay home, Old Navy became my store of choice.
    Now we're flat broke college students with two kids, even Old Navy seems way out of our league. Back to the thrift store with me.
    It's been scary to come full circle in the retail food chain, but I think it much easier to be here having done it before.
    My son knows that he can sometimes have a 25 cent gumball for a treat, not a $1 ice cream cone or a $4 happy meal. I hope I figure out how to adjust that lesson as he gets older.
    I've seen commercialism alive and well more in the church than anywhere else. Maybe we just need to learn that keeping up appearances has nothing to do with keeping up our spirits.
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 8/31/2006 09:55:00 PM  

  • I wonder if kids will dislike them, simply BECAUSE they are so inexpensive.

    When big designers started clothing lines at Target, I had grown-up friends who would buy them but then were emparassed to tell people where they got them because Target=cheap.
    posted by Anonymous daring one at 9/05/2006 11:14:00 AM  

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