This week I welcomed into my wardrobe a new pair of bumpers.
I can’t be certain, but they’re probably in the region of my two hundred and eighteenth pair this lifetime. These ones are white, but I have them in all sorts of colours and finishes.
Nothing says Executive Youth like a pair of metallic, rose gold bumpers, right?
Some of you may use this term, ‘bumpers,’ others might know them as plimmies, sneakers, pumps, or low tops. I think it depends where you grew up.
In Romford, where I lived until I was nearly ten, they were bumpers.
And my friend Sarah had a pair I coveted. They were the original Dunlop Green Flash.
I think they might have been her older sister’s before they were hers, which made them even more cool because Sarah’s older brother and sister had their fingers on the pulse of popular culture.
Her brother introduced her to The Boomtown Rats, The Jam and Siouxie Sioux.
Her sister introduced her to Jackie, the girls’ magazine and its Cathy and Claire problem page.
Sarah’s sister stood at the gateway between innocence and experience. We revered her and her pop psychology and apparent knowledge of the adult world.
She told Sarah that our parents had made us by rubbing their bottoms together. Sarah, in turn, passed on this piece of wisdom.
I remember being appalled. (Imagine how much worse it got when, in the summer of our final year at Junior School, she revealed the truth about the blow job.)
So when Sarah turned up in those Green Flash I knew I had to have a pair.
It wasn’t easy however, persuading my mum that I needed those particular bumpers.
“What was wrong,” she wanted to know, “with bumpers from the market?”
Everything. Everything was wrong with them. They were non branded for a start and they didn’t have the padded throat line. Huh!
I needed plimsolls which would make me look like I knew who Bob Geldof was and how conception occurred when bottoms were rubbed together.
I did not need plimsolls which would make me look like I was about to play yet another game of Pirates in another dreaded PE lesson. Probably in spare PE pants borrowed from the laundry basket at the back of the gym.
There was fashion and there was games. And never the two should meet.
Sarah totally had the pre-pubescent ’70s look down to a T. Striped cotton midi dress with belted waist, ankle socks and Green Flash. No other nine year old was working the look like her.
Since then, bumpers have been a fashion staple in my wardrobe. Yes, some might say that at my age I should long since have stopped looking to a nine year old child from my past as a sartorial role model but bumpers have stood the test of time.
By the time I’d got a pair of actual Green Flash (for legitimate purposes to complement my tennis kit) everyone else had graduated to Adidas or Reebok. When they weren’t wearing Pixie Boots, that is.
I’d missed the moment.
But I don’t remember caring. Even when Marty Mcfly upped the ante with Nike in ‘Back to the Future.’
Bumpers are a design classic. You can wear them your way and it would be nigh on impossible not to look good (Len McCluskey or Prince Charles in Converse would defo be wrong but the exceptions are few).
I used to love my coloured Converse but the fashion for women of my age now is to go with neutral colours paired with white bumpers. I’m all for it.
Who doesn’t want to see me in vulcanised rubber?