The Shoe Code

By: Lan

Do you ever catch yourself sizing someone up, or reading into their personality based on a quick glance at their shoes? Admit it, we’ve all done it – people-watching is the new HBO. We don’t set out to judge or make assumptions; it’s just human to do so before reason takes over and gives us a slap on the wrist for jumping to conclusions about the unassuming stranger.

Last Thursday, I found myself in Addison, TX at Group Dynamix, an indoor team-building facility, for the second ExxonMobil CSJP seminar. I also found myself doing the above-mentioned, people-watching. Clearly, as it was only 9AM, my reasoning and sensibility had yet to wake up and kick in. The week before, all 60 interns had received emails reminding us about the meet, as well as emphasizing that we remember to wear close-toed shoes. In my mind, close-toed shoes plus an indoor facility that involved a rock-climbing wall and ropes course meant athletic shoes. Of course, ever since I started working with Media Projects on this SOLE SISTERS project, I’ve been more conscious of the shoes around me than ever before. So it should really be no surprise at all that when “people-watching,” I was focused on their shoes. Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of catching up with some other interns, I caught sight of some newcomers arriving in ballet flats and Converse.

Immediately, I came to the conclusion that they had either:

A)   Not read the email thoroughly and did not know that we were in for a day of rolling around on mats and hanging from the ceiling in harnesses

B)   Were just one of those people that dressed according to their own code, all the time, or

C)   Didn’t own athletic shoes

And the list could go on, but let’s just end it there and say that I was well on my way to assuming I knew what these people were like based off of the shoes that they showed up in.

youthleadershipsmallNeedless to say, a few hours of running around pretending to be jeeps, cowboys, and pterodactyls later, my tune had changed. As we worked together in order to cross great “chocolate rivers” and forged paths through the tumultuous “Amazon rainforest,” barriers fell away and we started to get to know each other. By noon, we were working together seamlessly to get through every obstacle and finish every challenge. As we ate lunch, I came to the realization that I couldn’t group people together based on what they walked in wearing. I couldn’t say that those who were in flats acted in this manner, while the sneaker-clad behaved like that. Really, seeing as I work on the SOLE SISTERS project almost daily and have read through numerous stories about identity through shoes on the SOLE SISTERS website, I don’t know why I didn’t reach this conclusion sooner.

It is the person that wears the shoes; the shoes do not wear the person. Our shoes are merely an outward representation of how we want to appear, and we can pick and choose as we please, but they do not define us. We define who we are as we walk down our paths in life; the shoes are merely there to help us rise that extra inch and look fabulous along the way.