Shoes Your Fetish

0collection of chucks
Chucks come in many colors.

I have always been a big shoe fan. I may have not had the best taste, but I cared about the brand, style, and overall appearance of my shoes.

I always felt I had ability like none else to be able to look at person’s feet and make an assumption of what they may be like by the shoes on their feet. Shoes say a lot about people. I can instantly put them in a social class by the style or brand name of shoes they wear. Though this method of judging people isn’t exactly fair it most often turns up true. I would even say that I have a “shoe fetish”. I know my fetish of shoes isn’t so extreme, but I do love shoes.

I conducted a survey on shoes and through data in my survey I found that several of my peers have the same feeling about shoes. One respondent went so far as to say “an obsession is more like it. It is addictive.”

I compiled a survey of questions that I thought might be relevant to my essay. The audience in which the survey was passed out to was a group of college students, some men, but mostly woman. The age range of the audience was nineteen to twenty-five years old. I asked questions like “When shopping for shoes is price/comfort a factor? Why?” and “Do you consider yourself to have a shoe fetish? Why?” There were seventeen questions in all. Through data collected in the survey I was able to compare my personal shoe buying habits and fetishes to those of my peers.

When most people think of “fetish” they think of sexual tendencies. When I conducted my survey several people mentioned that they thought fetishes were based on sexual obsessions. There are other things you can obsess about. A shoe is one of them. A shoe fetish is a non-sexual obsession of shoes.

According to Webster Dictionary a “fetish” is “a material or object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence.” (430). If that’s what a “fetish” is then what is a shoe fetish? One psychiatrist in a journal article said that shoes of woman are very phallic. “I would say they are symbols of sexuality and powerful femininity. A shoe that has grace, surprise, and whimsy can exist abstractly, almost like a work of art” (Jackson).

To someone with a shoe fetish the most important quality of a shoe is style. In Harper’s Bazaar they said, “shoe fanatics do not care for price, practicality or comfort” (Jackson). Also according to Harper’s Bazaar one hundred to two hundred plus shoes is what most shoe obsessed people have (Jackson). I own only twenty pairs of shoes so where does that leave me?

Though I may not have a full-blown fetish of shoes, I do admire shoes in an odd way. When I see someone in shoes that appeal to my eyes I become curious as to what made him or her purchase that shoe? What made them like it? What made me like it? And where can I get a pair?

What does it mean to have a shoe fetish? To me to have a shoe fetish is to own shoes and cherish them. Every time you wear them you enjoy wearing them because you know that other people much like myself are admiring them. I always see people looking at my feet and I assume they look for the same reasons that I look at their feet. It also means to me that I’m fashion conscious about the latest brands and styles of shoes on the market. Someone with a shoe fetish is aware of the shoe world around them.

I always thought I had many shoes (twenty) and thought that was an ample amount for someone whose in college pays bills and enjoys the occasional splurge. I was wrong. Twenty shoes is nothing compared to a friend of mine who had his shoes lined neatly along his bedroom wall. There must have been eighty pairs all laced up and waiting to be worn next. The sight of a guy with so many shoes and who was so organized flabbergasted me. According to my survey no men said had a shoe fetish, but I think if they did they wouldn’t admit it. As far as my friend goes it’s okay for guys to love shoes too. I think he’s in the “shoe fetish” closet and it’s time he came out.

To me shoe fetish is an interesting concept. The concept of someone like myself praising an article of clothing is obsessive. I’ve never heard anything about underwear, sock, shirt, or pants fetishes. Through the articles I read it was obvious to me that I have a very mild case of a shoe fetish.

When I analyze someone based on his or her shoes it has to do with my fetish of shoes. I observe people and what they wear and ask why I think they wear it. Those with shoe fetishes tend to care more about their shoes and everyday appearance so they make an effort to be noticed and notice others. “Shoes can reflect environment, culture, politics, religious beliefs, social status, and ceremonial customs” (School Library Journal).

People are aware that the shoes on their feet reflect these characteristics and they choose shoes based on how they want to be perceived. Are they preppy, grungy, or trendy? I can tell by the shoes people wear. I think this comes from being part of so many different social groups. When I was in junior high I was extremely preppy and in high school I became grungier because that was cool and now finally I am just an average person so I can easily tell what people are like by their shoes.

Shoes have definitely evolved over time. The cavemen used to wear nothing on their feet and that was in a time when there were no paved roads or sidewalks. The ground was all natural resources and probably didn’t feel pleasant on the soles of their feet. Of course they probably were used to walking around barefoot, and they most likely formed giant-sized calluses on the bottoms of their feet making it easier to shrug off the pain from rocks. Could you imagine walking everywhere barefoot? There were no vehicles of any kind to help them get from point A to point B. You relied on your feet. You had no bikes to peddle your way across the gravely grounds and no buses to drop you off at the nearest corner to your final destination.

Also think about the baggage cavemen had with them. They were bruiting men who carried clubs as well as their woman by the hair. That couldn’t have been easy. I know I have a hard enough time holding a pile of books in one arm and drinking a Diet Coke with the other while walking to class. Every time the books spin from under my arm and spill in to a big mountain on the ground, or the Diet Coke spills down my chin and trickles down my shirt as I take a step. Walking and doing other activities is no easy task for me. So I couldn’t imagine walking barefoot while dragging people and carrying clubs like Bam-Bam from the Flintstones. Do you think when they stubbed their little toe that they stopped to rest while their “woman” kissed it and made it better? Doubtful. They probably “grunted” loudly and were on their way. This grunt is similar to what I do when I drop my books or spill soda. I curse in a loud voice a profane word. Then I’m off walking again, this time concentrating on the steps and holding the books firmly.

Lucky for us we don’t have to face such horrible dilemmas like walking everywhere barefoot. With the evolution of the man came the evolution of the shoe and comfort for the feet. Through the great minds of the past generations, society has been able to evolve and make shoes a very important commodity, even an accessory. “Since early times people have wanted beauty in their lives and have needed to express their individuality and, for these reasons, have created shoes of different styles and materials” (Kirkus Reviews). It seems that over time people’s feet have become more and more “sensitive” and we’ve became spoiled and now demand comfortable shoes for all occasions. Ray Rodriguez studied shoes and wrote a journal article on them. He said “The museum’s historians tell that 2,000 years ago, shoes were only used by kings and priests” (Rodriguez). With a little bit of pain and a little bit of endurance the average businessman was able to create innovative ideas in the ways of the shoe industry. Individuals decided to do a little extra work to make their feet comfortable and their shoes could be fit for a King.

Shoes are an important accessory to our daily lives. Why is it that I’m so obsessed with shoes? In an article by the Kirkus Reviews journal they state that “readers focus on how they choose shoes and what statements their footwear makes about them.” But why? I demand comfort at affordable prices and want to be recognized by the style or brand I wear. People with shoe fetish don’t care how much shoes are, if they want it they’ll buy it. They become obsessed with shoes and have to have it. For most with a shoe fetish, style is the most important factor. With me I first find a style I like and that I think fits my personality. Then I try it on and if it fits and it’s comfortable I’ll buy it. Otherwise I put them back on the shelf until I find a shoe that fits all criteria.

When buying a shoe most people say that they base their buy on comfort, but you don’t even try on shoes until you find a look or style you like. If we all bought shoes sole on comfort we would all be walking around in grandma’s orthopedic shoes. You’d stop your friends on the street and say, “Hey, dig those ’orthos’. Where can I pick myself up some? Do they come in tan, black, and white?” I know my peers aren’t so understanding of unfashionable shoes and would pick on me at the drop of a hat. I have to have style and comfort which orthopedic shoes only posses one, which isn’t style.

The shoes I buy portray the kind of person I am and most other people realize this too when purchasing shoes. “Those sensibly padded work shoes, feathery mules, or expensive loafers you’re wearing may reveal clues to your personality” (School Library Journal). My shoes are normally some form of tennis shoes. They are always a basic color like black and I prefer my shoes to be pretty plain.

I often see people wearing bright shoes like red, orange and baby blue, and I wonder why they choose that color. Is it so they don’t fall in with the crowd, so they will be noticed? It’s hard to not notice bright red shoes against the gray sidewalks surrounding Virginia Commonwealth University. People are aware that when they purchase these shoes others will be looking and saying either “cool shoes” or “what were they thinking?” More power to them for wanting to be noticed, but I’m someone who tends to want to blend into the crowd.

I’m not going to buy some tan “granny” shoes no matter how comfortable my feet feel in them, they’re not cool. They may be plain shoes, but not in a fashionable way. I don’t want people to look at my shoes and come to the conclusion that I’m like an elderly woman. I want them to look at my feet and say; “Hey I like your shoes. Where did you get them?” I don’t want anyone to walk up and burst out in uproarious laughter.

In my survey that I conducted I asked whether price was a factor. It was. Are you willing to pay more money for more comfortable shoes? Who’s to say they really are more comfortable? I personally won’t spend a lot of money on a pair of shoes. The last pair of shoes I bought were black Saucony’s for the price of thirty dollars. They’re comfortable, simple, and are becoming more and more popular from what I’ve noticed. They have a very affordable price, which helps out with the popularity. The highest I’ve ever paid for shoes is seventy dollars and they were for a pair of Adidas running shoes that I haven’t worn much. Two reasons I don’t like to spend a lot of money on shoes are one, I don’t have that much money and the other reason is that at this point in my life shoes aren’t that big of a priority. I would rather spend my money on CD’s or on arts and crafts. They’re only shoes and sooner or later I’ll have to throw them away. They get dirty and stinky and why would I want to pay big money for shoes that are only going to get worn out. All the people I interviewed were starving college students and said that they would rather spend money on more important things then to buy shoes. Some said that if they had ample money they would buy expensive shoes, and others would still only spend a low amount.

I still own a pair of Converse All Stars that I bought in the eighth grade. The bottoms are peeling off and I drew eyes on the toes of the shoes to make them look like they are talking. I paid twenty dollars for the shoes and have gotten plenty of wear out of them, but I just can’t seem to part with them.

People pay some pretty outrageous prices for shoes. According to the survey only one person has bought their most expensive shoes at a price less than seventy dollars, and everyone else was above. When they talked about the most expensive shoes they’ve ever bought they also said name brand and quality were an important factor in the reasoning of why they bought such expensive shoes. There were three people who have spent over one hundred and fifty dollars on shoes. Those people said that the shoes were high quality and big brand names. However the most expensive shoe was bought at five hundred and twenty-five dollars. They were snake skin boots and were purchased as a gift for someone else. The most expensive shoes I have ever owned were also a gift and cost the buyer one hundred and twenty-five dollars.

After some deep thought and comparison of all the shoes I have ever owned I came to the conclusion that Converse All Stars are my favorite shoes. I don’t want to buy shoes based on their gimmicks. You don’t have to pump them up when you put them on. They don’t take ten minutes to lace up; they just slip right on. When you step there ISN’T a blinking light. You won’t run faster with them on. You won’t “be like MIKE”. I enjoy the simple canvas shoe. They are easy to take care of, you just throw them in the washer and then they’re clean. If you need new ones they’re very affordable making them easy to replace when they are no longer wearable. The last pair I bought were twenty dollars.

If I were stranded on the beach with nothing but the clothes on my back and my shoes I would choose Cons. Their thin soles add to the flexibility of the shoe and that in turn adds to comfort. So when I am stranded and resort to natural resources and walking the island over I will be comfortable. And when they get dirty and stinky I can throw them in the fresh ocean water and lay them in the sun to dry while I work on my tan.

I can still remember when I got my first pair of Converse All Stars. I was in the second grade and my brother was in the fifth grade. He was so cool in my little eyes that I wanted to be just like him. He was already aware of fashion and fitting in and I was still oblivious to what fashion was. At that age I thought he was the “man”. Though now when I look back at pictures I realize what a dork he was. He was a huge fan on Cons and since I wanted to be just like him I decided I was too. Aside from Paula Abdul he was my role model, and I wanted to mimic all the “big-kid” things he did. My brother led me to believe that I wasn’t cool because I didn’t have Converse. I wanted to be a cool little sister. So I jumped on the kiddy bandwagon and went in search of my first pair.

My brother and his friends all owned a pair of Cons and now I was going to also. I don’t recall any girls at that age wearing them because there were considered (more or less) boy’s shoes. Since I was a tomboy they fit my personality. We went school shopping with our mom one day and she was letting us get a new pair of shoes. This was always a treat for me since when I was young my shoes got dirty and dingy from so much wear and tear as a child. I remember my shoes were literally black before I got a new pair. They had creases in the leather from running and playing in dirt all day long. The shoelaces would rip in two and I would tie them tightly back together. The soles of the shoe were so faded and flat; where a brand name logo once appeared was now just a smudge of rubber on the bottom of the shoe.

We went to the mall and everywhere I looked I couldn’t decide on what I wanted because Converse were no where in sight. My mom was getting angry and tired with my fickle mind. She wanted to call it a day and go home to the comfort of her pink chair and ottoman, but I hadn’t found what I was looking for. The search for the perfect shoe continued throughout every shoe store in the mall, some stores I went twice just to make sure I really didn’t want the shoes they had to offer.

Finally, there they were on the shelf. They stood out from the rest, as if a light from God was shining upon them. They looked so vivid and alive. One side of the high top shoe was casually sagging over to the other as if it were resting instead of standing tall and erect. The color was what caught my attention the most, they were the brightest primary red I had ever seen with white soles that crept onto the top of the shoe. There was even an added bonus of a circle with a star on the inside of the ankle. There they were my first pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars. I was sold on the spot.

Red  high top chucks make a statement.
Red high top chucks make a statement.

There was a man in a black and white referee striped polo shirt with the store logo sewn over the left breast who came over to help. He measured my little feet and went to the back to find the red Cons. He came back with a box and a smile on his face as he saw how eager I was to try them on. I slipped my feet inside the canvas shoes and he laced them up nice and tight for me. I felt like Cinderella but with a “bad-ass” attitude because of the chucks, instead of a little “prissy” girl attitude with glass slippers and my mom was the wicked stepmother who wanted me to hurry up and decide if I wanted them. Little did she know I had already decided and was a very happy girl. I walked to the nearest mirror and I admired my feet from different angles. I asked my mom her opinion, but she was indifferent. My brother wasn’t too happy that I was getting them. He thought I was trying to hard to be like him, which I was. I strided back to my seat, bent over and put my old dirty sneakers into the box that emitted that new shoe smell. I love that smell. It’s reassuring. When I buy new shoes I feel so special and the smell reminds me of how special I am to just of bought new shoes. The smell would diminish when I put my old worn to the sole shoes in box. Finally my mom paid at the register and I smiled the whole ride home.

Since I was so fond of my new shoes I decided to share them with my class. I was in second grade and Ms. Loretta Georgia was my teacher and I admired her a lot. We used to have to share things about ourselves and I remember one day when I shared my new shoes. I wanted everyone to see them and be envious of them. I “wore and told” I guess you could say. Ms. Georgia complimented me on my shoes and everyone is the class thought they were “;cool”. That was the first time I remember actually WANTING a pair of shoes. I guess it is true that “insatiable shoe fetishes seem to develop at an early age” (Jackson).

A man named Charles Taylor started my favorite shoe. He is best known for his representation of the Converse All Stars. Not many people are aware of who he is or what he has done for the basketball shoe industry, but everyone knows what the Converse All Star is.

The Converse All Star “is recognized throughout the world as the classic American canvas sneaker. From the unique molded sole imprint to the eye catching ankle patch, this shoe is immediately recognizable, even from a distance” (An American Icon). Chuck Taylor was a basket ball player and was disgusted with the league and the shoes that they provided for the players. The Converse All Star was “first promoted by American basketball star and later Converse spokesman Chuck Taylor, the shoe initially became popularized as the world’s pre-eminent basketball shoe” (An American Icon).

Now it’s amazing to see the diversity of people who wear Converse All Stars. It’s bewildering. Whenever I’m in class I tend look around at my fellow college students and observe their character. Once I was in class and there was this “not-so-hip” looking guy who from the head to the ankles was nothing too special, but then I looked at his feet and saw he had on chucks. That caught my attention. He just looked like an average guy with khakis and a plaid button up shirt tucked in. His hair was kind of messy and he slouched in his chair. The “not-so-hip” guy kept tapping his foot on the ground repeatedly like it was a nervous habit. The teacher called on him and now both feet were tapping away as he read aloud. I kept focusing on his shoes. Why did he like Converse? Was it for the same reasons that I did? We looked like two completely different people, but we had this common interest in comfortable shoes.

Another time I was on my way to class and I passed what seemed to be a businessman who was walking at a brisk steady pace. He was dressed nicely and carrying a briefcase. His ensemble consisted of khakis with a white collared shirt and tie, and on the tie were pictures of each of the three stooges, Moe, Larry, and Curly. Do you think the stooges ever wore Converse? “All Stars are regularly worn by people of all ages, celebrities and regular folk, and people with all types of occupations and interests,” (An American Icon). I looked at his feet as they were increasingly picking up the pace. He had on navy blue Converse. They appeared to be high tops, but it’s really hard to judge with the way his pants laid over them. With the shoes and the tie I was lead to believe that he is a true “kid at heart”. Who is this middle aged man and why is he wearing the same brand of shoes that I do? Does him wearing the shoe make it less fashionable for me since he is middle aged? Converse have been around for about seventy-five years and many generations have grown up with Cons. Unlike Nike and other big name corporations Converse All Stars have stayed the same for generations. Making it understandable to me that a middle-aged businessman and I have similar taste with shoes.

There is also this guy I work with who has multiple colors of ratty hair. He has piercing all over his head and tattoos all over his body. He is what I tend to think of when “hooligans” are spoken of. A shirt of a punk rock band or a Charles Manson shirt with dirty jeans is his trademark outfit. A chain that dangles from his front belt loop to the wallet in his back pocket lets you know when he’s approaching. He always sports Converse All Stars.

What is it that makes me, the hooligan, the businessman, and the “not-so-hip” guy all want to buy the Converse All Stars? Converse has maintained the same simple style over the years allowing different generations to become acquainted with the Cons. Do we all fear change?

As I stated before most shoes seem to reflect what a person is like. Maybe the previously mentioned people and me are all very similar but the way we dress divides us up into other social groups. I wore Converse when I was younger and grew so attached to Cons that I became obsessed with them and whether others wore them and why they wore them. I can’t remember a time in the last ten years that I haven’t owned a pair of Cons. They’re always there, like old reliable. I can always trust they’ll be comfortable and simple in style, so maybe the “not-so-hip” guy, the businessman, and the hooligan have the same loving bond with the shoe. Or maybe they enjoy the low prices and the high quality comfort the shoe has to offer.

In a survey that I conducted I asked nineteen people from the ages of 19-25 whether or not they have ever owned Converse All Stars. Seventy-nine percent said that they have at one point or another worn Converse All Stars. Only 0.02 % said that Converse All Stars were their least favorite pair. The average age in which people bought their last pair of Converse was thirteen. When I was in marching band in high school I bought Cons because they were so flexible. That was the last time that I bought a pair and I was a sophomore in high school. They were baby blue low tops which I still own as well as two other pairs that are black and navy blue. One day at band practice this guy told me how cool my shoes were. It’s always nice getting compliments. I don’t wear them anymore because, well, they’re baby blue and I like my shoes to be dark colors.

Converse might be my favorite, but according to twenty-one percent of the respondents who took my survey their favorite brand of shoes is New Balance tennis shoes. Twenty-one percent also said they own this brand now. New Balance is very much like Converse. They are a very universal shoe where I see middle aged adults, teens, children, and even babies sporting the latest New Balance style. I have never owned a pair of New Balance tennis shoes, but I am currently looking to buy a pair. Like Converse All Stars the New Balance shoe has a line that are very simple and affordable and the shoes are supposed to be very comfortable. The second most popular shoe according to my survey were Doctor Martens. Fifteen percent of the people said they like them the best and currently own a pair. I own two pairs of Docs and I find them to be the least comfortable shoes I have. They aren’t flexible at all. The pairs I have are very heavy and just in general don’t fit me well. I like the look of the brand and can understand why based on looks they may be most popular, but through personal experience I find Doc Martens uncomfortable.

Numerous people said they look at the overall “look” of a shoe and then they go from there to comfort and price. The three all fall together and are all priorities on my mind. Is it affordable and comfortable? Do they fit my personality? How often will I wear them? Some even admitted to buying shoes that look cool even though they are uncomfortable and they wore the shoes a handful of times. I have done this several times. You buy on impulse because you like how they look under the fluorescent lights then you get them home only to find out they are hideous.

Why is it that shoes seem to be coming so omnipresent that men and woman are buying the same shoes? So many shoes now a day are unisex and not made specifically for one gender. There are still specially made products for each sex but a lot of people are buying unisex shoes. For example Converse and Doc Martens. You see men and woman everywhere wearing the same style shoes.

Other interesting statistics from the survey are that forty-two percent of the respondents hold onto a pair of shoes for only a year or two. People with shoe fetishes aren’t known to throw away shoes. I know I have the hardest time parting with my shoes. You never know when you might have an urge to wear Eastlands from 1993 or when you want to whip out the old L.L. Bean loafers from 1992. I form a bond with my shoes and have separation anxiety when I try and throw them away. I will put them in the trash for a couple weeks, kind of like a holding period to see if I can live without them because just as soon as I throw them away I have an urge to wear them. Go figure. Thirty-six percent hold onto shoes until they fall apart. Forty-seven percent wear their favorite shoes every day while forty-two percent wear theirs only a couple days out of the week. I try and give each shoe ample love by alternating wearing them.

According to Harper’s Bazaar “the average woman has 12 pairs of shoes in her closet; the average man, six.” Men tend to have one pair of shoe for every occasion. Women have shoes as accessories. How often do you hear guys say “nice pumps.” Guys just don’t seem to care about shoe fetishes as much as woman.

Thirty-one percent said they buy shoes based on name brand only and fifty seven percent buy based on personal interest in the shoe and not how popular the name brand is. Let’s be honest here. How often do you see people wearing Wal-Mart specials with Velcro straps? Not too often. Though people say brand name isn’t a huge factor on your mind, I know subconsciously that people buy a shoe for a name brand. If it’s not name brand then the particular style is popular therefore rooting back to the brand name.

The most expensive pair of shoes that anyone ever bought were considered popular at the time in which they were purchased. I am a low budget person with a shoe fetish so I only buy what I can afford when I can afford it. The average price that someone was willing to pay for shoes was in the area of seventy to eighty dollars. I’m even lower than that. I like my shoes to be around thirty dollars, but still cool and comfy.

When I asked, “Do you have shoe fetish?” thirty-six percent of the people said they did. And sixty-three percent said they didn’t. The thirty-six percent that does were all women. The answers that were given to support why they think they have a fetish is because they get hooked on styles and shoes as accessories. They need to buy the shoe and the comfort of having another style to choose from is liberating. You can ask yourself if you want to wear tennis, or boots, flip-flops or high heels. Some said their fetish for shoes would be worse if they had more money because they would indulge themselves much worse. Since all people I surveyed are poor college students they aren’t able to buy shoes very often.

A fetish is an obsession or devotion over an object. Do I consider myself to have a fetish? Yes. My shoe fetish pales in comparison to others that I’ve read about in the articles while researching shoes and shoe fetish. I love my shoes. That’s all that a shoe fetish really comes down to. Some people just love spending money on shoes than others. I not only am interested in my own shoes, but shoes of strangers and why they wear the particular brand they do. I think shoes are a summary of the total package of a person. They are an important article of clothing to have and be identified by. If your shoes are dirty and worn out you are more likely to be a more laid back person who doesn’t care much about what other think. And if your shoes are always clean and laced up tightly you might find what others think about you to be important. They help you out in so many ways from looking stylish to protecting your feet from the world. Having a fetish for shoes or anything else is addicting and there may be no “real” way to control the insanity, but I think my method of stopping shoe fetish would be abstinence. Don’t get reeled in by the latest styles and gimmicks. Stand on your on two feet and “Just Say No” to the latest shoe sale prices!

—Excerpt from an essay by Noel Laws
a student at Virginia Commonwealth University

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