Fewer Boots at Folsom?

DorksA friend of mine brought to my attention that an observation was shared on an on-line boot board about what guys were wearing at the recent Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. The observation was, “They say that the Folsom Street Fair is the largest leather event in the world, but I’m sorry to report that only a small percentage of the crowd wore leather, and even a smaller number wore boots. It was shorts, jock straps, jeans, or nothing at all, along with thousands of sneakers, sneakers and more sneakers.”

My friend asked me what I thought about this. I have some ideas about how the demographics have changed in today’s culture among 20- and 30- year olds, compared with the culture and norms of the days when I was their age (1980s through mid 90s).

This is what I said to my friend in reply to his email:

Frankly, I am not surprised. However, I think today’s generation of emerging young adults have these issues (thinking aloud/ my comments aren’t confirmed or settled):

a) The current generation in their 20s & 30s are more comfortable as they are, and are not as interested in wearing a “uniform” of sorts — including leather, or even boots. Back in my day, wearing leather was considered a costume that one wore to be more macho and some of us found it sexually stimulating. Today, young people get their sexual stimulation by other methods (including more and more through synthetic chemicals and drugs that weren’t around back in the ’90s and before.)

b) Most of these young people are of the generation that they wore sneakers since they were infants and they don’t know much about other types of footwear. Even in Oklahoma where some of my relatives live, I see pictures of their children and teens wearing sneakers. Never boots and seldom leather shoes (except perhaps for dress-up occasions such as a wedding or funeral.) So these kids who become the young adults of today do not have experience with leather footwear and do not have an interest in it. They only know sneakers so that is what they wear. To them, sneakers provide the comfort and are casual, easy to get through airport security, easy to pack, and are just such a part of everyday life (for them) that they don’t think about anything else to wear on their feet.

c) Folsom itself has changed from a primarily gay leather-oriented event to a Metrosexual, multigenerational, open street fest. I read somewhere recently that the demographics of the attendees at Folsom changed from 80% men in their 30s & 40s (in the early 90s) to something like 50% male/female, and 50% gay/straight, and a range of ages. Not that there weren’t older people in attendance in the early ’90s when I went, but there definitely were not any children younger than about 20 back then. Nowadays, this event has morphed a lot (at least from what I can tell from photos on the ‘net.) Thus, with the change in the activity’s primary demographics, it is no wonder that more attendees wear sneakers, since yuppies, millennials, and the Y-generation — particularly the straight ones — only wear sneakers (see point b.)

d) Economics. Back in the ’90s and before, one could buy new leather and boots at fairly reasonable prices. One could have a job with an entry-level salary and still afford boots and perhaps a leather jacket, chaps, or vest. Today, the rate of increase in the cost of leather garments and boots has increased more rapidly than the rate of salaries paid to the same age group. Also, we have to face it (though you and I are different), but the priority for disposable income for today’s 20/30s young adults is for the cost of their digital world. They think nothing of paying $100 per month or more for the data plan for their smartphones. At that rate of monthly bleeding their income, they have little left to afford to buy new boots or leather garments which are four to six times more expensive today than they were in the early ’90s.

In particular, I think the role of shifting priorities for where to spend money is about the most significant. That is among several reasons why I do not have a smartphone, and do not plan to get one. The monthly cost to maintain that addiction is expensive.

I am curious if anyone else has ideas why more young adults these days wear sneakers and will not wear boots to an event like Folsom, regardless of their sexual orientation. Please include your thoughts in a comment.

Life is short: keep the budget priority on boots and dump the stupidphone. (Sorry, I know that won’t happen, but that is how I feel.)

2 thoughts on “Fewer Boots at Folsom?

  1. Interesting analysis, BHD. I suspect you’re more right than wrong about it all. I have noticed more boots in Manhattan and metro-NYC in the last few months, however, so maybe that trend will continue and the ‘sneakers-all-the-time lifestyle’ will end or lessen.

    BTW: your last sentence is particularly true. I believe the stupidphone was invented on Mars to suck our brains out. I know, I’ve seen it. Just look at all the zombies walking through Grand Central Terminal talking on their phones, eyes glued to their phones/iPads/iPods/laptops/Kindles – NOT watching where they are going. One day you’re going to hear about mass casualties in Manhattan but it won’t be because of terrorism, or a bus/car/train/plane crash. It’ll be because too many zombies tried to fit into too small a space. Triage will be at an Apple store; surgery will be at Best Buy. Bank it!

  2. I too am not surprised. I think your assessment is largely correct and I’ll add a few of my own comments.

    It’s California, where temperatures are not as severely cold as other parts of the country. The new generation is more influenced by Surfer Dude attire. Global Warming is at the forefront of all forms of media.

    My experience does not go back as far as yours – 1980s. I suspect shoe stores back then had some boots on display? There were more Brick and Mortar Western stores in most cities and now vanished. There is no visibility of boots at the local malls. Only Italian fashion houses have boots at prices comparable to cosmetic surgery.

    Generation X & Y don’t go to bookstores to browse magazines. They get everything from the net via whatever phones they use and boots are not part of the agenda. There are online boot stores, but none have pop ups and Apps that stare you in the face.

    Boots have gone up in price since your younger days, but you can still buy a pair of boots for around the same price as branded sneakers. Just search and see how much sneakers can cost!

    In the agricultural communities around the country, you can still see boots worn for practical purposes. Western boots are still very visible in pockets of the Hispanic communities.Those working in construction and manufacturing of heavy equipment wear work boots and sadly the better variety are only available online.

    Boots sold at Walmart are mostly of inferior quality, but their presence to casual shoppers is most common. Boots are perceived, and rightly so, as uncomfortable, needing long break-in periods with blisters to prove. Brands like Ariat and Twisted X make their boots more comfortable and sneaker like to retain loyalty and sales among those who traditionally wear them. Justin has followed with padded insoles and composite soles that are more flexible than leather. They are also more airport friendly, though steel toes in work boots still pose a problem.

    Though boots have declined in presence at Folsom, I think sales are maintained in other parts of the country.To attract a better following, boot makers need to have a presence at events such as Folsom so potential customers can try them on for fit and comfort and demonstrate that boots are not instruments of torture. Proper fit is important as I’ve heard the comment, “my boots are killing me,” quite a few times.

    Several men have asked me where I buy my boots as they liked the look. When I told them online, all said they won’t buy footwear they can’t try on before handing over the money. I told them about exchanges if the fit is not right, but none were convinced.

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