Just One More Pair? Shoes, why we have so many, and what they tell people about us.

Nadine Druar, Staff Writer

According to a Time Style and Design poll, the average American man owns about 12 pairs of shoes. The average woman, on the other hand, owns at least 27 pairs.

I polled some of the students at Notre Dame Academy about their shoes. The results? A boy at Notre Dame has a mean of six shoes that cost an average of $94 per pair. A girl at Notre Dame has about 24 pairs of shoes that cost around $82 per pair. The total number of shoes owned by Notre Dame’s 750 students is 11,250. The cost for 11,250 shoes? $427,500. And that’s just an educated guess for the students.

Why do people own so many shoes? Is there a psychological reason? Is it a newfound disease? Why do we invest so much time and money into something that is made to protect our feet, and yet, if viewed in a logical light, does a very poor job at it? After a day in many of their shoes, a woman will get home, fall into a face-plant on the couch, and moan from pain after peeling off shoes that are more torture device than shoe. I  can’t relate. I have eight or nine pairs of shoes, most of which are comfortable or mostly unworn. The shoe obsession is an enigma which continues to baffle me.

“There is something about footwear that permits it to occupy a special niche in our minds as a composite symbol for power, allure, stature, and paired-ness. In addition, shoes are a developmentally fitting symbol for the capacity to stand up, walk forward, and emerge as a separate individual, distinct from one’s parents. In order to develop an identity, a child needs to first imitate and then identify with parents’ grown-up mystique, and at times their physical unavailability. So although shoes are indeed made for walking, they may also function as extensions of our identities, straddling the divide between fantasy and reality,” PsychologyToday.com reports.

I have a friend  who is the happiest person I’ve ever met. Her main shoes were two sets of neon pink and neon blue tennis shoes. I don’t know about you, but to me, nothing screams happiness like a pair of neon shoes. It is almost impossible to look at those shoes and be depressed. I could see her personality in her shoes. A study by the University of Kansas shows that my friend isn’t the only one with personality-revealing shoes.

Medicaldaily.com published an article by the University of Kansas where people tried to guess a stranger’s personal characteristics just by looking at a picture of a person’s shoes. The researchers found that volunteers could guess whether a person is an introvert or extrovert, how much money they made, age, emotional stability, and agreeableness, all by a picture of their shoes.

For example, a person with attachment anxiety, or who is worried about their relationships, usually had clean, new shoes. Researchers say that this is probably because these kinds of people are very worried about what people think of them and how they look.

“Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers,” the authors of the Kansas University study wrote. “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.”

We choose our shoes according to our personality, even though we don’t realize it all the time. They are a symbol of who we are and how we want to be seen–odd-looking, expensive, and painful coverings for our feet which are really so much more than just shoes.