Whether it’s Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, or the Bachelor and Bachelorette, history has shown us love doesn’t often go as planned. That’s fine. Romance comes and go — shoes are forever.
Really, who needs a soulmate when you can have a ‘sole-mate’? It seems the world agrees: athletic footwear sales increased by 3 percent in 2016 to reach $17 billion in global sales, largely buoyed by the seemingly unending casual sneaker trend. In Britain, women admitted to owning an average of 24 pairs of shoes, and prefer shopping for footwear over fashion. Over 90 percent of the ladies surveyed also owned two pairs they had never worn. Oops.
It seems that when we are so head over heels (pardon the pun), we make purchases that have no utility. Alas, this is when the love goes from unrequited to unhealthy. High heels, for instance, can lead to arthritis, bunions and back pain, among other issues. Instead of a broken heart, a killer pair of pumps can also break the bank. The average woman has to work two and a half weeks, or 80 hours, to pay for a year’s worth of shoes.
Ultimately, shoes are a status symbol and social currency — an indication to our peers how much wealth we have, our values and affiliations. University of Kansas researchers found strangers were able to correctly judge a someone’s age, gender, income, political affiliation, emotional and other important personality traits just by looking at their shoes.
Dr. Susan Scheftel of Psychology Today says the origins of shoes’ power may lie in our childhoods. Before we can walk, we see our parents putting them on, going about their lives and leaving the house. Shoes become symbolically tied to mobility and stature, both literally and socially. As children, footwear is a first big step towards independence and individuality.
Interestingly, shoe obsession is gendered. While 90 percent of women admit to loving footwear, for (heterosexual) men it is often only socially acceptable to be crazy about shoes if they’re sneakers. Shopping and shoes have largely been feminized by Western society, but athletic footwear has strong associations with maleness. Sneaker brands align themselves with sporty spokespeople to reinforce this — a classic example being Michael Jordan for Nike. For sneakerheads, owning a large collection of coveted styles can not only express, but expand one’s masculinity.
That said, both men and women who love shoes a little too much may be suffering from shopping addiction. As opposed to the glamour espoused by the Real Housewives, Carrie Bradshow or DJ Khaled, actual shopaholics share many qualities with those reliant on substances, and constitute about 5 percent of the population.
So why do we love shoes to the point of pain and poverty? They make us feel good — literally and chemically. Shoe shopping releases dopamine], otherwise known as our brain’s natural pleasure drug.
Not to mention, as psychologist Dr. Karen Pine points out, what we wear affects our mood. Key takeaway: putting on a dope pair of shoes can lead to a much better day.
Would you prefer a pair of fresh kicks instead of fresh-cut roses this Valentine’s Day? Yeah, us too.
Let us know what shoes you’re loving in the comments below!