But Why These Shoes?

I’m back on shoes.  I guess I really like shoes.

I’m really interested in shoes, and what they say about their owners.  In theory, they’re inconspicuous, out of the way – as far away from the head, with its facial expressions and speaking as possible.  We pay attention to faces, to upper bodies.

Down there at the lowly Cape Horn of the body sit the shoes, functionally tasked with keeping our oh-so-tender feet safe.

So as I sit in the park, watching the many people go by, I can’t help but wonder about the choices everyone made.  Why those shoes?  What possessed the wearer to choose this shoe instead of any other?  Why does the market support such a wide variety of footwear?

What do my shoes say about me?

When I buy shoes, it’s an almost unconscious decision.  I’ll browse online, or go to a shoe store (gasp) in person, and see what they have.  If asked what I’m interested in, I’ll say “I don’t know”.  I don’t know.  And yet, I’m guided by an invisible will towards specific styles, brands, and types.

The reality is that I’m very specific about what type of shoe I’ll buy and wear, I just don’t like to admit it, even to myself.  Whether or not I like it, whether or not I’ll admit it openly, I’m buying shoes in large part in order to tell you something about myself.  Yes, I have some baseline requirements that don’t relate to other people (do they fit?  Are they comfortable enough?), but the majority of my shoe buying decision comes down to you, and what I want you to think of me.

What do people’s shoes say about them?

Are they comfortable looking?  Are they inconspicuous?  Are they bright and obnoxious?  Are they so obviously ugly that the wearer is either blind, or making some sort of statement about how little they care about what you think? Do they match the wearer’s shirt? Hat? Are they athletic shoes, in spite of the fact that the wearer is not currently doing anything athletic?  Are they leather? Are they not leather, but brown anyway? Are they very obviously brand new? Are they dirty?  Are they all white, but amazingly not dirty?  Can you imagine how much work it is to keep all white shoes clean?  Seriously, think about it, I’ll wait.

So, I don’t know, go look at your shoes.  How much of the decision to buy that particular pair of shoes was about telling people about yourself?  Are you happy with what they say?

Tune in tomorrow, where I’ll undoubtedly talk more about shoes.

 

Shoes

I was in New York over the weekend.  I hadn’t ever been to New York.

We spent an afternoon in Central Park.  It was Sunday afternoon, and the weather was nice – and the park was full of people.  More people than a yokel such as myself can really comprehend easily – where did all these people come from? Where do they all live?  Why are they all here?

But one thought kept coming to me:

Look at all these shoes.

It can be difficult to really understand the vast scale and power of the worldwide human economic machine – but if you get thousands and thousands of people together, and then just start paying attention to their shoes, you can start to get a sense for it.  All those shoes.  Very few of them exact duplicates – there are many similar styles, but not so many perfect matches, even in a sample size so large.  Each pair had to be designed, manufactured, packaged, shipped, delivered to a store, then purchased by a person.  So. Many.  Shoes.

What’s more – shoes aren’t exactly a commodity.  People care about their shoes.  They have to be the right size, to start – but more important than that, they have to be the right style.  We expect our shoes to, on some level, reflect who we are.  So now you’ve got to have this massive infrastructure in place for manufacturing, delivering, and selling the shoes, but you’ve also got to close the loop – the customer’s desires have to inform your shoe designs.  And it works!  I saw thousands and thousands of pairs of shoes, and each one somehow spoke to the person who bought them – made them feel a bit more stylish, or more professional, more athletic, more unique – enough to spend some money and take them home.

The sheer volume, the complexity that makes up the industry that has no focus, no concern other than to protect and decorate your feet, is staggering.