Silly-Sock Girls, Shoe Ladies, and Women in Comfortable Shoes: The Female Obsession With Footwear?

Posted on February 20, 2009

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I was reminded recently of a phenomena I had forgotten about: Silly-sock girls.

You know who they are. These are girls / women who wear bright, multi-colored, clashing, and very often mismatched socks. They may also wear comparably silly shoes — brightly colored Converse being a classic example. The implication I’ve always read into this behavior is that the Silly-sock girls are deeply concerned about their feet and footwear as a form of self-expression but are intentionally resisting conventional expectations about female footwear. 

As a result, in my mind, they are kindred — if temporarily opposed — spirits to the Shoe Ladies. These, of course, are the women who have hundreds of shoes of all styles, makes, and models — so long as they are cute, fun, sexy, or <insert adjective of choice here>. They often own shoes that do not fit, simply because they liked the look. They will often wear unwearable shoes in the most perverse of situations. For example, I saw a girl wearing 3 inch stilettos the other day when the streets and sidewalks were sheets of ice and the temperature faaaaar below zero. A few days early, I saw a girl wearing those ballerina slipper shoes with no socks in several feet of snow. For these women, buying and wearing shoes is not just an exercise in fun consumerism but a genuine contribution to and expression of their sense of self-worth. 

Last but not least, there are, of course, the “women in comfortable shoes”.  Now I imagine — although I have never met any — there are some women out there who wear comfortable, non-desrcript shoes, and socks on a regular basis because it is what they prefer and are not intending any kind of bold statement of personal identity or politics.  In my experience, however, the comfortable shoe ladies are consciously taking some kind of stand. And even in those rare instances when they are not, everyone else assumes they are taking a stand and thereby they become the exception that proves the rule. 

Now, I should say, I’ve been talking about “kinds of women,” but I am happy to accept that the phenomenon I am calling attention to may be more accurately described as feminine modes — that is, women at different times, depending on their mood, make a statement about their self-identity through their choice of footwear.

I mention all of this in the spirit of good-natured male confusion and because I think women might not realize how uniquely gendered this phenomenon is because it is such an essential part of their day to day existence. Sure, men care about their own shoes but only indirectly. I may appreciate wearing a nice pair of shoes, but, at the end of the day, the only reason I am at all concerned about the look of my shoes is because I know some potential female mate is going to assess me based on my footwear. Certainly, men can also be somewhat obsessed with women’s feet and shoes but the interest they have in their own feet and footwear is only really motivated by the fact that women so often judge people by their footwear. 

So my question is, what’s with the female obsession with feet and footwear? Anyone have or know any good theories? Am I wrong / right to think the feet and footwear obsession is uniquely female?

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