Shoes and their underlying messages

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They say you shouldn’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, but according to researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas, you can spare yourself that walk and just look at the person’s shoes instead.

“Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers,” the authors reported. “Shoes serve a practical purpose and also serve as nonverbal cues with symbolic messages. People tend to pay attention to the shoes they and others wear.”

Some BYU students, both male and female, agree that shoes do say a lot about a person.

“It sounds shallow, but it’s not,” Andrea Thompson, an art education major from Naples, Fla., said. “(Shoes) are an indication of a person as a whole, who they are and what they like.”

John Haws, a public health major from Morgan, said shoes convey much more than someone’s personality.

“Shoes, the reason they say a lot about you, is because it’s detail,” Haws said. “Shoes are important because they show not only that a person cares about themselves, but they care about the details, too.”

Whereas the Wellesley/Kansas study used shoes to measure things like political beliefs and attachment anxiety, BYU students tend to use a person’s shoes to gauge potential friendships and relationships.

Thompson said stylish shoes on a male give her an indication that he might be interested in similar things as she is — art, music, photography — thus making her want to get to know him. Cameron Kimbal, a sophomore from Suwanee, Ga., ran cross country in high school and values staying in shape. Before his wedding this summer, he said he was more motivated to talk to girls wearing running shoes because he thought they might have common ground. Brigham Elton, a sophomore from Morgan, said he is less apt to talk to a girl who isn’t wearing stylish shoes.

“If a girl is maybe dressed well but isn’t wearing good shoes, I don’t necessarily judge her, but naturally, just looking at her, she’s not as cute as she could have been,” Elton said. “It’s not like I won’t talk to her at all, but it’s just wrong.”

Precisely what message a particular shoe conveys depends on the person. Thompson, Haws and Elton agree that wearing running shoes with jeans is never, under any circumstance, permissible and conveys a rather careless message. Carson Monson, a European Studies major from Draper, on the other hand, said it’s not that simple.

“It shows that they aren’t necessarily focused on what others think of them and they’re comfortable with their image, but it also shows that perhaps they’re not as professional or as well put together,” Monson said. “So, it’s definitely a two-edged sword.”

Kimbal, who tends to wear more comfortable shoes rather than fashion-forward shoes, said while there may be correlation between shoes and personality types, it shouldn’t be a very big deal to people.

“You can’t judge a person based solely on their shoes. If someone is that into material things, something is wrong,” Kimbal said. “Aside from the shoe problem, they just have deeper issues as a person that matter a lot more than wearing dumb shoes.”

Thompson agrees that people shouldn’t judge each other based solely on their shoe choices, but said people need to be aware of the attention their shoes get.

“I don’t judge anyone’s characters based on their shoes, but whether people like it or not, your appearance does matter,” Thompson said. “People are going to look at you, and they’re going to look at your shoes; you can’t avoid it. Whether you like it or not, people are going to think you’re trying to make a statement about yourself, so I think it’s kind of ignorant to think you can wear whatever you want and people shouldn’t judge you for it.”

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