Image Source: EListMania

September, 1986: I was freshly fourteen, freshly home in Maine after four years of Florida exile and ready to start eighth grade. I missed Maine like crazy, but I got used to the life of a pre-teen Florida beach bum/skate rat. Every day in Jacksonville was like a Cameron Crowe film, and I was straight out of central casting, bedecked with a devil-lock (nicely highlighted by fourteen bottles of Sun-in), surf and skate tees, Jimmy-Z’s skate shorts and violet Chuck Taylors.

My new Maine chums were, to put it mildly, a little taken aback by me. Walking into Sugg Middle School, Lisbon Falls, Maine, circa 1986, was like walking into a documentary about the Nixon years. I decided to dress up in a Cosby sweater for that first day. My classmates were all bowl cuts and bangs and jean jackets. I was listening to and skating to The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, The Ramones and Agent Orange. Transportation for the rest of the class revolved around the most extreme engines on two or four wheels, and the Maine airwaves were filled with Grace Slick and John Kay and Steppenwolf on the dinosaur station.

And there were only two feet clad in violet Chucks for many miles around.

It was September, 1986. Reagan and Gorbachev were staring each other down. The Red Sox were cruising in the American League East. The Beastie Boys, Robert Palmer and Don Johnson (sic) ruled the charts, and Who’s The Boss?, Growing Pains and ALF were must see TV.

I was fourteen and finally back home after four years of dreaming. And I was about to become a middle school pariah; a purple-wearing faggot.



  1. This is categorized as a true story so I will assume that it is. How did you finally blend in with the rest of the kids? I say blend in because I think that is inevitable, unless you had several terrible years in high school (which I did).

    • All true, and I blended in by playing great guitar, although it was (and still is) hard to trust that I had blended in. My walls were up for years…

  2. Violet said:

    The awful awkward years. Would you, if you knew then what you know now, still wear the violet Chuck Taylor’s?

    • Your namesake shoes! (Nameshoes?) Good question. Probably yes, because I would of course be a font of confidence and take-no-shit optimism. But maybe I would’ve saved the Chucks for the second day? Who knows. They went great with the sweater, though…

  3. At some point, I think I will just click the True Life tag and go through the whole collection.
    Another interesting piece, Brian.
    So when did you stop dyeing in the streaks?

    • When it all fell out! 😉 I went full-mullet jacket for most of the rest of high school. That fit me in a little better…

  4. morezennow said:

    Oh, the middle school years…trying to get your kids through them is almost as agonizing. I would’ve gravitated to you like a bee to Tupulo Honey. And tried to steal your Chucks.

      • morezennow said:

        For sure…we can share some tots and snark on the jocks and preppies.

  5. free penny press said:

    You brought to mind my brother.. he was the rocker who wore silver & red shoes, dressed like Mick Jagger in a small suburb was hard on him to be different, I was proud and he now lives in LA with a closet jammed with Armani.. He got the last laugh..
    Loving your slices of life stories…

      • free penny press said:

        Ah that’s right.. you are my fellow purple shoe clad kid. I wrote a poem about mine and my feeling like an outkast.. I’ll dig it up one day .. 🙂

      • Can’t wait! Solidarity.

  6. Lily said:

    Isn’t it funny (and traumatizing) how one thing can be cool in one part of the country, but in another part it’s totally lame? I really liked this story! I wish Florida was still like that. I have a feeling it’s not though. The world in the 80’s seemed nice–not as wholesome as the 60’s, and 70’s, and not as gross as today’s world.
    Awesome post.

    • I’ll be returning to FL for the first time in 26 years in June. The Westbye Reclamation Project continues!


  7. “Walking into Sugg Middle School, Lisbon Falls, Maine, circa 1986, was like walking into a documentary about the Nixon years.” Oh, been there, done that. Great story, Brian; you have a gift for capturing the pivotal moment.

  8. I still love to blast “Everything Turns Grey” at 10+ volume… =)

  9. Wow…did you just take me all the way back there! My Chuck Ts were black, and my boyfriend wore the black and white checked ska version….I was always a bit envious of his style! He was also in a band….so by association I also got to meet and hang out for a bit with The DKs, The Ramones, Minor Threat and Black Flag…and so many others who usually went by initials…MDC, JFA, DOA. It was a great time of American Hardcore, Mohawks, skateboards, anarchy, and leather jackets with as much crap pinned, stapled, taped, and painted on them as they could possibly hold. Fun!

    Great story Brian!

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