Shoes make your -- and others' -- feet happy

Feb 28 2011 - 10:38am

Images

LEFT TO RIGHT: Alexandria Shenaut, Allison Weichmann, Kay Leo, Ivee Barton and Jessica Biscoff model their TOMS shoes.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Alexandria Shenaut, Allison Weichmann, Kay Leo, Ivee Barton and Jessica Biscoff model their TOMS shoes.

When I was in eighth grade, it was skater shoes like Etnies and DC. When freshman year rolled around, Converse were the big deal. Sophomore year, everyone had Vans.

Each of these shoes came in a variety of colors and styles that teens could use as sparks of individuality.

Over the past couple of years, a new shoe has entered the must-have list for teenagers: TOMS. And these canvas, sneaker-like obsessions are everywhere.

But TOMS are different than their forerunners. The $44 you shell out on a pair doesn't just cover your canvas shoes and give the company a nice profit, it also pays for another pair of shoes for a barefoot child in a Third World country. So, while you're sporting the latest trend, a little kid somewhere has a barrier against getting cuts and scrapes on her feet that could cause infection. It's the epitome of a win-win situation.

TOMS have been around since 2006 when Blake Mycoskie founded the company after making a trip to Argentina and seeing the poverty in the villages. Originally, the project was called "Shoes For Tomorrow" but was soon shortened to TOMS.

Mycoskie started out with just 250 pairs of shoes. Immediately after the company kickoff, 2,200 orders were placed on the TOMS website after a story was published in the Los Angeles Times. Every pair of shoes sold since then has been taken to poverty-stricken communities and placed on each child's feet by hand. In September, TOMS hit the one million mark - that means a million shoes have been given to kids in need in 24 countries worldwide.

A few trendsetters picked up on this fashion statement quickly, but it's only recently the shoes have become a cultural phenomenon. Celebrities such as Kristen Stewart, the Jonas Brothers, Keira Knightley, Bono, Brad Pitt, Scarlett Johansson and countless others have been seen wearing these shoes. TOMS even has a line for brides and grooms looking for the perfect way to spice up their wedding. The Dave Matthews Band, Polo Ralph Lauren, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's company -- The Row -- and Element Skate have recently forged partnerships with TOMS to create their own versions of the shoe while still following the same "One-for-One" premise the company was founded on.

High school and college campuses are one place that TOMS are erupting. Young people have created TOMS Campus Clubs that put on activities, enlist art students to paint on shoes to raise funds, and take part in TOMS' "Day Without Shoes," a day in which participants dress sans shoes to further consciousness of the cause. This year it's April 5.

TOMS are my go-to shoe staple for school since they don't clash with the plaid skirts that are a part of my uniform. I've had two pairs -- my current ones have gold and tan stripes and my first ones were maroon. They're comfy and stylish but not too flashy; they blend in with every outfit from my uniform to basic jeans and a T-shirt. TOMS aren't athletic shoes but they're more convenient to run around in than flip flops or sandals when the spontaneous summer game of basketball or soccer pops up.

The only weaknesses I've come across with TOMS are snow and rain; they are less than water resistant, to say the least. Consequentially, the warmer months are probably the best time to wear these shoes.

TOMS represent the next step in trends: advocacy and generosity. A new generation of fashion is emerging, one of conscious consumerism and a fresh sense of enthusiasm for a cause. This spring, I'm sensing this trend will intensify and more people will step up and shed their winter boots to style their "soles."

Emmie Oliver is a junior at St. Joseph Catholic High. Contact her at hatuzie@ hotmail.com

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