Have you ever imagined that your shoes talk? Well not literally, but recent research has asserted a long held belief that one’s shoes say a lot about them. Shoes are normally the last item of clothing we put on.
Some would find it frivolous that we can judge people’s character, personality, age and economic status from the type of shoes they wear but you will be surprised by the revelations concluded by researchers.
The study titled ‘Shoes as a source of first impressions’ was compiled by Dr Angela Bahns of the Wellesley College, Massachusetts together with other researchers from the Kansas University, USA.
Interestingly, while age and income can often be gleaned from the wearer’s shoes, the study points out that one can also be judged on their attachment anxiety; the quality of preoccupation with, and insecurity over one’s relationship with other people.
“Shoes serve a practical purpose, and also serve as non-verbal clues with symbolic messages. People tend to pay attention to the shoes they wear,” reads a statement from Bahns’s research.
The study established that the most “boring” shoes belonged to those who struggled to form relationships because the wearers are emotionally “aloof and repressive” and don’t care what others think of them and therefore don’t feel a need to stand out in their general appearance.
Shoes which are not new but kept immaculate and functional often belong to ‘agreeable’ people. Expensive shoes on the other hand, reflect, not surprisingly, high income earners whilst flashy and colourful shoes predictably belong to extroverted personalities.
Boat shoes are for casual loves, white sneakers are associated with geeks and black sneakers cool and hip.
Calm personalities often choose to wear uncomfortable looking shoes while people who lean more to the left on the political spectrum tend to wear shabbier and less expensive shoes compared to conservative folk.
The deck shoe is associated with stylish men who are “players” and love having a good time. The flip flop is for people who don’t pay much attention to appearance.
The high heels are often worn by women who are into fashion and enjoy embracing their feminine element. The research claims that “some of the heel wearers tend to be found in a large group of girls as they move in a pack, whether it is to totter to the loo, or shake their hips on a dance floor”.
Sports trainers as expected are often worn by gym bunnies and sports lovers.
The researchers pointed out that while people can always choose shoe styles to mask their actual personalities, they were unlikely to know themselves what the shoes they wore revealed about their character.
“Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about the wearer,” the study concludes.
Curious about what locals thought, I first approached Dikeledi Mmutle, a 25-year old tertiary student who wore All Star sneakers in a raging shade of red.
“At my age, it’s ‘cool’ to wear sneakers, especially machesa. They are not only associated with a streetwise high end brand but are comfortable and practical. I can wear mine with my normal jeans, tracksuits and even dresses. I have four pairs in normal and boot cut in varied colours. I have just two other pairs of shoes; sandals and high heels, which I rarely wear,” she says.
She however points out that some people think she’s rowdy and streetwise because she wears these sneakers.
“I sometimes have people speaking to me in tsotsitaal or assuming I’m a crook. It’s really funny.”
Does she look at other people’s shoes? “I do but not with a critical eye. I think there’s more to everyone than the shoes they wear, but perhaps it could be a small hint to the personality of the wearer,” she says.
When I met Thato Onkamile he wore work boots at a party. He’s in his late 20s and is an artisan at a mining company.
Considering his job path, it’s easy to see why he wears the otherwise hideous shoes which would make a fashionista gape in horror. However, this practical gent is the least bit concerned.
“I prefer comfort over style. This pair is good quality and is expensive. I don’t want to change shoes or waste money on several pairs. If I have two or three comfortable pairs I’m fine,” he says dismissively.
Considering the impression you want to make, perhaps it’s advisable to put your bet foot forwards as your shoes speak volumes about you.