By Vernon Felton
Photo by Anthony Smith
Shit just got serious…Squirrel was wearing the yellow shoes again and nothing in the world says, “I have come here today to kick all of your asses,” like a bright pair of yellow shoes. We were on notice.
Squirrel wore a lot of strange clothes and most of the time it didn’t signify anything other than the yawning generational gap that existed between our 20-something associate editor and the rest of us older, less…fashionable…editors. The kid, for instance, would show up to work carrying a man purse while swearing up and down that it was a “European satchel.” Or he’d walk in wearing these big, goofy-looking sunglasses that you’d swore he swiped from a retirement home for aging hookers.
Naturally, we mocked Squirrel relentlessly about these things. Daily. We did this, not because we are mean-spirited and shallow people, but because we cared about Squirrel and that’s part of the man-code: when your friend is wearing something stupid, you owe it to him to deride him until he discards the offending article of clothing. We heaped scorn upon Squirrel because we cared about our co-worker and because our office is located in a town full of marines who will happily kick your ass if they ever see you walking into a bar in the company of a guy wearing a purse and granny sunglasses. So, yeah, maybe our Squirrel-baiting wasn’t entirely altruistic, but our heart was always in the right place.
Squirrel, however, was immune to derision. He rocked the saggy hooker specs and the “murse” for what seemed an eternity. He would stoically endure our taunts like some kind of mountain biking Gandhi. He was above our pettiness. At least, he was right up until the moment he’d pull the yellow shoes out and strap them on. Those shoes were his way of rolling up his blouse and announcing that he was about to tear open a can of whup ass.
What is it, exactly, about yellow shoes? I don’t know how it happened, but they have become the de facto thrown gauntlet, a proclamation that their owner is not here for a friendly little group ride; he’s here to demoralize, destroy and bury everyone on the trail today.
A number of companies, most notably Mavic, have been making Tour de France-yellow cycling shoes for years now. Ostensibly, any swinging dick can run down to the local bike shop and fork over a couple hundred for a pair. Maybe roadies do that without thinking about the significance of their purchase—without first attaining an unholy, deal-with-the-devil level of cardiovascular fitness—but every mountain biker I have met who was wearing a pair has promptly ripped off everyone’s legs and carried the limbs away like grisly war trophies.
Yellow shoes are a statement of intent. The mountain biking equivalent of Mike Tyson getting that Maori facial tattoo or the U.S. lobbing Neil Armstrong onto the moon. We wear the yellow shoes—we are not to be fucked with.
Yellow shoes mean business and it’s for that reason that I never wear `em. There was a time, a long, long time ago in a land far, far away, when I was fit and sorta fast. Or at least thought I was. I would have bought and worn yellow shoes back then. I wanted to hand out punishment on group rides. I lived for crushing my enemies, seeing them driven before me and hearing the lamentation of their women.
But I’m not that guy anymore. I respect the yellow shoes. I admire the effort it takes to constantly defend your throne of badassery against the horde of pretenders, but I’ve given up the chase. I’m more like the old guy who reminds everyone to eat their fiber whilst reminiscing about the days when his prostate was as strong as an ox. I am not fast or fit enough to buy–much less wear–a pair of yellow shoes. Still, if I’m going to be completely honest, some small part of me watches Squirrel strap on the yellow shoes and considers joining CrossFit or going gluten free or at least giving up dessert for Lent. I’m slow, but I’m not dead yet.