Friday, October 21, 2011

The Six Million Dollar Man, the Seventies, and Soccer

I think my sister got the worst of it with the Six Million Dollar Man shoes.

They were bright blue running shoes, with a little plastic picture of Steve Austin’s face stitched on the outside of each shoe, the tread just the word BIONIC in huge letters that went from toe to heel. I’m guessing they were picked up at $1.49 day in a bin at Woodwards- my parents also bought my Mork and Mindy rainbow suspenders that way. The year was 1979 and the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man had just worn out its welcome the year before. The shoes were decidedly NOT cool.

Meg was in grade 7 and unfortunately for her, the shoes fit her best. She tried to get out of wearing them: she picked her old, holey runners from the garbage can and tucked them into her school bag but she got caught doing it and my parents took the old runners away. She tried destroying them: she rode to school, steep downhill all the way, by not once using her actual brakes to slow down, just dragging her feet. She amended them: she swiped my mom’s sewing scissors and picked out the stitches surrounding the little patch on each shoe that contained Steve Austin’s face, and threw the patches away, but it was no use. Like Steve Austin, those shoes were built to last. The kids at school were merciless and still whispered “de-ne-ne-ne”, the bionic sound effect from the TV show, and made slow motion karate chop moves every single time she moved in class.

Of course, I had mortifying clothes too – since neither of us were allowed to wear jeans to school I remember my mom sewing us drawstring pants and matching reversible vests, creating a kind of 72-year-old- woman-in-a-pantsuit aesthetic that didn’t exactly fit in with the way everyone else sported sexy Le Cullotier jeans with a round handled wide toothed comb slipped casually into the back pocket. Our hair was still cut bowl style by my dad, with super high bangs, while everyone else was either feathering or opting for the long, straight, babysitter style hair that Gwenyth Paltrow now favours. I remember being asked by the cool girls more than once, “So...the vest is reversible? Wow. What about the pants? Are they reversible too?” followed by a lot of giggling. Let’s just say style was not my strong point.

Except at soccer.

As any private school parent will tell you, uniforms are the great equalizer. At soccer, I looked exactly the same as everyone else. Oh sure, I had magazines tucked into my socks for shin pads, since there was no way my parents would spring for the real thing – but no one could really tell, since of course the socks came up to my knees. At soccer, everyone had to wear the same hideous, used, polyester jerseys and short shorts. Everyone on the team had ugly black cleats. Everyone had sweaty, bad hair.

It was glorious.

Here's me, rocking my bowl cut and home-made clothing look in the seventies. I still totally remember how itchy the trim on this dress felt. As far as I can tell, no pictures exist of the BIONIC shoes. Sadly, we cannot rebuild them....we do not have the technology.


  1. oh my.. I take back every bad thing i've ever said about you Cathy. It must have been devastating to have to grow up in those... leiderhosen-esque things (what the heck kind of shirt is that anyhow?)

    - Man of contrition

  2. Au contraire, ma soeur:

    (although, as far as I know, none exist of me in the hateful things).

    Also? Funny, as always.

  3. In high school, I always thought you were cute. Great blog!
    Jennifer Almond

  4. i think my Mom borrowed those patterns and dug around in the same Woolworth's bin! I remember the rainbow suspenders but I thought it was cool city girl thing and was probably a little jealous. It's all perception....