Time for a profound question. Why is it in an era of globalization, when so many of the things that used to distinguish one country from another have gone the way of the dodo, that you can still tell the differences between Americans and Europeans by their sneakers? After all, the teenage girls in Paris seem to be shopping at the same places as teenagers on the East Coast -- Gap, Esprit, Zara, H&M to name a few. And even that hideous accessories store, Claire's, has a major presence here. Skinny jeans, baby doll tops, layers of camisoles ....it all looks the same to me. Ballet flats look pretty similar everywhere but when it comes to sneakers, all bets are off.
The American tourist in gleaming white tennis shoes is a cliche, right up there with the Hawaiian shirt and ball cap. What's crazy is that many of the French actually own those exact same shoes. It's just that they save them for exercising, switching to canvas tennies or black Pumas for leisure wear, shoes that, in the U.S., would probably peg the wearer as profoundly dorky. But even the tough guys are wearing them so I guess they're hip by Parisian standards. I find the whole thing a little odd, particularly since I assume that most of these shoes (European and American) are made in Asia. Can it really be that sneakers are among the last vestiges of cultural identity?