PF Flyers

The year 1993 was a memorable one for me. It was the year of my son’s birth.

Changing diapers and dealing with all manner of sleep deprivation hamper one’s ability to savor the cultural zeitgeist. As a result, I didn’t get out to the movies much that year.

And so a little slice of early 1960s nostalgia, The Sandlot, passed me by.

Fast forward 23 years. That colicky newborn is now on the cusp of graduation from college. Needing a new pair of tennis shoes, he turned to PF Flyers, one of just a few sneaker brands that continue to be made in the United States.

The model he ordered is “The Sandlot,” apparently in homage to a pair worn by one of the characters in the movie. (He got the reference; I did not.) They’re all black (except for the circular logo).

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During the 1930s, BF Goodrich produced a variety of shoes with vulcanized rubber soles. The company’s patented posture foundation insole begat the name “PF,” and soon several Goodrich shoes were being sold under that moniker. According to the PF Flyers website:

The PF brand grew throughout the ’50s and ’60s,becoming one of the most popular brands in America “for work, relaxation and play.” Women could buy outfits designed to match their PFs, basketball’s first superstar, Bob Cousy, wore PF, and PF was standard issue in the US Army.

Eventually, Goodrich left the shoe business, so the PF brand bounced among owners for a while; at one point Converse owned it, although federal regulators determined that merger ran afoul of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Eventually, in 2001, the brand was picked up and resurrected by New Balance.

Most PF Flyers, like most New Balance shoes, are not American made. And those that are (assembled in New Balance’s Massachusetts plant) command a fairly significant premium. For example, the American made version of the Sandlot is $150, while the seemingly identical model produced overseas is $60.

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My son’s initial impressions are thus: “The shoes fit well and are already fairly comfortable without having to break them in too much. They feel like Converse that can take a beating.”

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He also offers this impression: “I feel like I could outrun a giant dog known ominously as ‘The Beast’.” This, I gather, is also a reference to The Sandlot; not surprisingly, it flew over my head.

One note about sizing. Because these are made by New Balance, which traditionally runs a bit small, I encouraged Andrew to order a half size larger than he normally would. The fit is spot on.

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