Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stumped by Shoes

I recently saw a dude wearing some hideous wetsuit like contraption on his feet that was a slight variation of Toe Socks which reminded me of another, fading trend in shoes, and than had another (even worse?) invention brought to my attention. I decided these trends must be brought to light.

Apparently, T, who keeps me up to reasonable date with all things modern, the hideous things I saw were Vibram Five Fingers. She said it to me about 5 times, and I never caught on. That's right, Vibram Five Fingers. They do indeed have five little holes for you to put your toes into them, just like toe socks, or mittens. And they do indeed look like wetsuits for your feet. I'm not sure if they're actually made of the same stuff (I'm pretty sure kangaroo leather isn't in wetsuits) but I'm telling you, they're stretchy things for your toes.


(photo courtesy of thenickster.)

I guess the theory is, shoes cause problems. Doing things barefoot is better. Doing things barefoot in shoes that are like being barefoot is best. It's safer in all of our extreme sports- like running on sidewalks and rocks and climbing, etc. And doing things like going to Gordo's, which is where I saw my first pair of these things. Therefore, being healthy and strong and having good feet while sporting modern Aqua Socks can be yours, for only $75-$100. Right.

So this is the least egregious of the three sets of shoes that I want to discuss. It's just... weird, and ugly, but I too am weird, and have no fashion sense, and as T said, I don't have to wear them, nor do I have to be seen with her if she wears them. (She hasn't worn them yet, as far as I know.) The next pair, though, really rubbed me morally in the wrong way. The awesome Sociological Images sent this one out yesterday- shoes that are meant to look as though they are covered in oil from the oil spill. (You just must click the link. The shoes are uglier than you can imagine.) SI sums it up, so I don't really have to:
This looks to me like an example of “conspicuous conservation.” The term was originally derived from the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” defined by Wikipedia as “lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth.” Conspicuous conservation, then, is the (often lavish) spending on “green” products designed mainly to advertise one’s environmentally-moral righteousness.

If you wear regular shoes and donate to the gulf spill clean up, your altruism is entirely invisible. But if you buy these hideous things, everyone gets to know what a nice guy you are.
It looks like the shoes come out in a November collection, so I can't find a price tag, so I can't put a value on the awesomeness of saving these shoes- for a hundred dollars, you can wear ugly shoes and get the benefits of going barefoot, but I'm guessing it's more to wear hideous shoes to give some money to a shoe company and some nonprofit to help the oil spill while not really doing anything at all. Sure, all of the proceeds "go to the oil spill" but, the company's gotta break even, too.

Last but not least are shoes that have been around awhile: the MBT shoes. They are the big clunkers with the rounded platform soles- I had never actually seen anyone wearing them till a recent trip to LA, where I also saw about 15 different styles (an oxy moron?) being sold in a store. (The only other place I have seen them being sold is Santa Cruz, approximately 5 years ago. I only saw one "style" being sold, and never saw anyone wearing them.) Actually, according the MBT, these are not shoes, they are footwear, and like the weird toe shoes, they believe that the best kind of walking is walking on sand, barefoot:
The positive effect of the MBT is based on the principle of "natural instability". An effect which can, in fact, be achieved without the benefit of high-tech footwear: by simply walking barefoot on soft, uneven, natural ground such as sand or moss. However, in today's thoroughly modern world this is not always easy to do - but the health benefits are significant. While wearing MBTs the body is forced to maintain its natural balance, thereby stimulating and exercising the body's supporting muscle system which results in numerous pro-body benefits.
Here's the part that bugs. A doctor with back problems "grew aware" of the Masai in Africa (the "M" in MBT) and

= and put two and two together: perhaps there was something to walking on soft surface with bare feet which enables the body achieve its natural walking style and, hence, reduce the amount of pain you feel thanks to the way you walk.
Basically, he made bank on the name of a cattle-based tribe in Africa that has been relegated to the driest, denuded land. He's not alone, but that doesn't make it any better. For $250, you too can "Step into a Stronger Body," like the Masai. Who seem to step into a strong (possibly starving) body. In Los Angeles, you step with your MBT footwear (not shoes) as IF you were stepping barefoot on sand, though there is sand only a few miles away on, where you could easily step barefoot. The attempt to lose weight, rather than to exist in a healthy manner is not enough: being healthy requires money, cultural appropriation, and technology. Even shoes (I'm sorry, footwear) imply racism, neocolonialism, and unexamined privilege.


zbsports said...

This is a very good post, and I was so entertain by it. I like five fingers shoes that is an awesome shoes.