If you're in your '20s and have never seen an episode of Nickelodeon's Doug, I weep for you. In fact, I question whether or not you really even had a childhood. As one of the three original Nicktoons (launching alongside Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy), Doug combined real world issues including, but not limited to: bullying, poverty, small town blues with boyhood wonder (s/o to tha gawd Quailman). It also poignantly introduced the frustrating, unavoidable coming of age experience known as "The Friend Zone." But amidst the sage advice and hopeless romance, one episode has likely had more of an impact on me than any other. Entitled "Doug's Cool Shoes," the 15 minute clip has, without a doubt, influenced countless real life episodes throughout my youth, including favorites such as, "Jake's Cool Shoes Part 31" and "Jake's Cool Shoes Part 84," which happened as recently as last week.
"Doug's Cool Shoes" chronicles the titular character's desire to seem cooler than the, speaking frankly, swagless basic he was (cargo shorts and sweater vests are not, and will never be, the wave), in hopes of redeeming the literal brick he threw up on a game-winning shot in a basketball game, by copping the hottest new kicks on the street, the Air Jets. Worn by the best basketball player in the world, Sky Davis, it's fair to assume the episode was directed at a generation of youngsters who were in the process of defining sneaker culture as we know it today, thanks to Nike, Michael Jordan and Wieden + Kennedy. Doug hits up the local sneaker spot to buy the new kicks, but is told there is only one pair left, a comically large size that the sales associate must stuff towels into for them to fit Doug's foot. As it turns out, the shoes are not only too big, but Doug is aslo a broke boi and only has enough for one shoe, so his arch nemesis, the far more swagged out, leather jacket wearing Roger Klotz (aka cartoon Macklemore) comes in and cops without hesitation.
Ultimately, Doug ends up discovering that Sky Davis wears the same garbaggio kicks he does, which gives him the confidence to defeat Roger on the hardwood, whose giant kicks obviously hinder his flow in the lane. The lesson here, even as a kid, was extremely fucking obvious: You don't need cool shoes to be cool because that shit is materialistic and blah blah blah. But as I watched re-runs of the episode in the weeks and years following, I began nitpicking the episode, frustrated as to why Doug didn't just get the kicks he so badly wanted. It seemed unfair. Why was it that all of the pairs in Doug's size were sold out? Why couldn't he get them anywhere else? Why didn't he have enough money to get them? But what irked me the most was that even though Doug's moral compass was seemingly back on track, he still hadn't gotten with Patti Mayonnaise. Homie didn't even try! In hindsight, he was so distracted by beating Roger Klotz in basketball that he forgot about Patti altogether, who earlier in the episode asked him to hang out. At the time, sure, sports were more important than girls, but now, when I think about it, like, talk about an even more epic brick than his literal one.
This desire to complete the purchase—to prove Doug wrong by believing in the power that dope footwear could have on my confidence and my abilities with the ladies—stuck like a motherfucker.
It also bothers me that Sky Davis rocked lame sneakers in the streets rather than the shoes he was likely being paid to wear. As a kid, I saw MJ in his Nikes all the time, so more than anything it seems like Sky was simply being deceitful, effectively lying to his fans about this shoes he was endorsing who were not fortunate enough to run into him on a bench in the middle of nowhere (seriously, what the fuck?). At the end of the day, he was still collecting those endorsement checks, so, like, dude, if you don't like your own shoes enough to wear them off the court, then maybe you need to work that shit out with your sponsor first and foremost.
Later on in life, I found myself in similar situations to Doug. I would go to Foot Locker or Champs to buy some new kicks, they would have a size that was too big, and, like Yung Funnie, I would try to rationalize the purchase. See, as a kid, there's a bit more planning that goes into buying sneakers because there's only a small window in which they will actually fit. In my case, I would tell myself that I would "grow into them" later, whether justifying some G-Unit Reeboks or some slip-on Iversons. This desire to complete the purchase—to prove Doug wrong by believing in the power that dope footwear could have on my confidence and my abilities with the ladies—stuck like a motherfucker. Even today, for better or for worse, it's that same feeling of "I need [insert jawn here] to be cool" that fuels a lot of my buying choices.
So look, I'm not saying any of this is even a little bit good. It's actually kinda sick and, yes, I have a problem with buying sneakers and clothing in general. I'm also not saying that I can wholly blame my deeply-embedded consumer habits entirely on a single episode of a particular cartoon. What I'm getting at is that maybe the writers of the show didn't think this one all the way through. Once the matters of basketball and pride are out of the picture, Roger was still the one with the dope kicks, totally justified, if not still a dick, in calling Doug "lame," and, most of all, probably getting the girl, while Doug sat in the dark, writing in that journal of his and shooting crumpled up paper into the trash can with only his dog to keep him company.
Most of all, Doug only fucked with his lame sneakers after discovering his idol wore them too. So, when you break it down, how is that any different then going out and buying sneakers because your idol wears them? Doug got lucky because he didn't have to spend any money, but it's the exact same thing. Then again, I guess his "regular shoes" kind of look like Rick Owens joints to begin with. If I only I had known that as a 7-year-old.