Remember Crazy Tan Lines?


The summer before the third grade, I formed a rather unhealthy obsession with a pair of platform Mary Janes from Kohl’s, or maybe it was Mervyn’s? (RIP) They were a soft, smooth pleather and strapped on with what appeared to be a sturdy shiny buckle, but underneath was actually Velcro. Impeccably done. What really drew me in was the one and a half inches of chunky sole—in hindsight, they totally foreshadowed my adolescent obsession with The Smiths—but I digress! When back to school shopping came around, my mom finally (!) agreed to buy me a pair. I wore those shoes, and ONLY those shoes, for the next three months under the beaming southern California sun. Over time, I wore those babies straight into the ground and built up an impressive tan three shades deeper than the rest of my feet in a U-shaped semicircle that looked as unnatural as it sounds.

I knew I was in for a deluge of comments if my naked feet were to ever be seen by another set of eyes, but what’s a girl to do? Become the Tobias Funke of Mary Janes? Eventually, the shoes came off. My older brother chuckled at my abominable tan. My mom tsk-ed when my feet were into her line of sight. My swim teacher paused class because he thought there was something stuck on my feet (there wasn’t). And I’m sure my friends exclaimed, “How did you get that tan?!” when we ran around barefoot during recess. But of course, the tan faded, and I grew up with a sustained love of low-cut shoes and the wisdom to wear them in moderation.

Many other tan lines covered my body over the years: a wild spaghetti strap tan that made me look like I got into a fight with a clothesline, the outline of a swimsuit that looked so cool when it wasn’t printed onto my stomach. But those days are long behind me now that I’m a card-carrying member of the sunscreen club (as everyone should be). Still, for how embarrassed I was about my Mary Jane tan line, I’d pay a pretty penny right about now to feel the way running around outdoors in those things made me feel. Would you do the same? What’s the craziest tan line you’ve had, and what’s the memory attached to it? Sound off below.

—Utibe Mbagwu

Photo via ITG