Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Lost Soles: Gabe's Vs. Citi Trends

Have you ever noticed how certain shoes sit idly on shelves for many months at a time? Even the enticement of deep discounts is often not enough to make consumers jump for joy in a ripe pair of $30 orange Puma Baskets. Recently, one mammoth specimen of size-18 Ugg chukka boots with the trademarked fur lining was reduced to a near-gratis $3.99 at Ross Dress For Less. Sure, the uncommon length and fruity colorway could've been primary reasons why an otherwise pricey item remained in captivity. What about traditional hues from formerly wild beasts like Diadora and British Knights? By and large, millennials strolling crowded hallways in $500 yellow McYeezys and jacked-up Jordan Shattered Backboards haven't readily adopted brands popular amongst their mall-walking uncles back in the day. For those 46-year-old sneaker aficionados who wish to revisit styles worn in algebra classes, two local spots offer low-cost solutions for the complex equation of not coming across as a try-hard in a dad hat.

Taking over the structure that had once housed a lifeless Kmart, Gabe's powered an immediate resuscitation of the shopping center adjacent to Chesapeake Square Mall. Much akin to its brethren at the nearby Burlington, notable clothing and accessory labels can be acquired for a fraction of the original cost. Naturally, my first order of business on this Thursday evening concerned a perusal in the shoe department. The chunky Skechers Shape-Ups tagged at $15.00 could've become my newest apparatus for laps around Lake Meade Park, but mismatched sizes forced a friendly employee to decommission the vessels. A $17.00 pair of black Puma Suedes with welcoming gumsoles stretched like a canoe in a kayak race. Constricted quarters in $14.00 Nautica casuals kept the clipper from greeting favorable winds.

Smoother sailing came in the form of $15.00 black K-Swiss Classics supported by translucent bottoms. Having competed in multiple tennis tournaments while sporting the original white model during my teenage years, I was very acquainted with the maker's blend of fine taste and ample functionality. Another serve-and-volley recollection was brought upon via $9.00 blue K-Swiss canvas casuals. Shortly before graduating from Salem High School in 1990, I engaged in a three-setter with my friend Rommel. As I launched into a completely unorthodox serving motion, the left sneaker was instantly torn asunder. Following several fits of hardy laughter from us both, I headed home to switch into appropriate leather Classics and proceeded to lose a tight match. Thanks to the black and blue pairs of Lugz respectively slashed to $10.00 and $9.00, boots are in my shoe collection for the first time in nearly 40 years. Until I find some Timberlands or Dr. Marten's priced right, these shifty cousins of the more esteemed makes will adequately complement jeans and buttoned-down shirts. Grand total with tax: $44.52. The supposed savings amounted to $249.00. I earned 42 points on the newly issued Gabe's rewards card. Quoting the store's tagline: "Unbelievable!"

Wedged between a 24-hour Laundromat and Papa John's Pizza on Main Street in Suffolk, Citi Trends is a low-key source for colorful denim, relaxed-fit polo shirts and unique kicks. The first time I peered into the establishment's window several years ago, about a dozen PONY low-tops in the classic Spud Webb design drew me inside for a closer examination. Though I'd been immersed in rocking Pumas at the time, I should've copped some size-10s for my not-as-stringent brother.

With a more relaxed attitude towards other labels, I gladly forfeited $12.00 for white-and-green PONY Quads last Friday. Reminiscent of the classic adidas Stan Smiths, they will be court-tested at Howard Mast Tennis Center as soon as my left shoulder completely heals. (Fun fact: Did you know PONY is an acronym for Product Of New York?) Another Mr. Smith-inspired sneaker gathered in the haul had no identification of any sort. An attached sticker referred to the mystery item as "Canvas Lace-To-Toe White." For $7.00, I shall wear the no-names during inclement weather and tell friends they are "imported." "You can't buy me. I ain't no Stepford athlete." Such was the initial statement printed on thin paper covering black-and-orange Starbury Highsteppers. For those unfamiliar with the story, Stephon Marbury parlayed a modest NBA career into god-like status in the Chinese Basketball Association. His huge success overseas led to the formation of a budget-minded footwear company which never gained serious traction in the United States. The Starburys at Citi Trends had sat on the bench for at least a year, but I decided to negotiate a trade in exchange for an eight-dollar cash consideration. Arguably, the best deal of this entire challenge was attained with a purchase of Reebok Royal CL Jogger 2s marked to move at $22.00. The red-dominant shading with white and blue hits truly stood at attention, while the Ortholite insole was more comfortable than Bruce Jenner's decathlon point margin in 1976's Summer Olympics. One site I would later research on Google still had the CL Joggers badged at almost $90. That's far greater than the $51.94 I dropped at Citi Trends and nearly matched the grand total for the entire contest.

If this battle had been a reality TV show taped in a manufactured jungle, the black K-Swiss Classics would've emerged as Sole Survivor. Due to the greater variety of Citi Trends' offerings, however, I'll swing my vote in their favor.

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