Saturday, December 2, 2017

Rosy toesy

About a year ago I came across a pair of pink Adidas shoes online that I immediately knew I needed to have. I've always been a bit of a sneaker aficionado, commonly known as a "sneakerhead." People are a part of the sneakerhead culture for a variety of reasons. Some people like to collect as many shoes as possible with no intention of ever wearing them, some want to have the most expensive sneakers on the market, some like to collect only rare sneakers, etc. I've always been the type to only buy shoes I know I'd like to wear. Part of the appeal for me has been wearing shoes that I like but don't see too many others wearing. It makes wearing the shoes feel more personal, like a form of self-expression. When I saw the pink Adidas with the white stripes and a rose on each tongue, I knew I wanted them! I gave little thought to the fact that the shoes were rose pink, a color that most boys don't wear.

I've only worn the shoes a handful of times since I purchased them, mainly due to it being hard to pull off pink shoes without the right outfit. I've noticed, however,  that I've received a large amount of comments about the shoes for the amount of times I've worn them. I certainly have more expensive shoes, ones that are more flashy and well known, yet these receive the most attention. While I always suspected that the color of the shoes had something to do with catching people's attention, I wasn't completely sure whether that was the main or only reason. Recently another student made note of my pink shoes and suggested that I consider writing a blog post about them. After giving it some thought, I agreed given the amount of attention they'd gotten.

When my dad noticed my pink shoes, he made a sarcastic but friendly comment in Spanish along the lines of, "Look at you, with your pink shoes!" When one of my professors noticed my shoes, she said, "Wow nice shoes! Owning the pink, I like it." About a half-dozen of my peers have stopped me to comment on my shoes, all of them positively. I've even had a few strangers come up to me and tell me they like my shoes. Pleasantly for me, every comment I've received has been generally positive. Why is it that my pink shoes have gotten so much attention? They're certainly a little flashy and unique, I've yet to see anyone else wearing them. I suspect what gets people's attention more than anything is the color and the rose on the shoes. I wonder, would a woman in these shoes get as much attention? What if the shoes were red instead of pink? What if I removed the rose from the tongue?

All of this got me thinking about the origins of why we attach genders to certain colors. This Jezebel article states that pink was actually meant to be for boys, quoting from 1918 Ladies Home Journal, "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." The article goes on to say that pink and blue became much more strongly reinforced as gendered colors in the 80's when manufacturers saw an opportunity to make money by selling new baby supplies to parents who previously had a child of the opposite gender. I wasn't surprised in the slightest to discover that money was the motivating factor behind something as ridiculous as attaching gender to colors.

I wish I could say that I bought these shoes because I wanted to make a statement about masculinity or that I wanted to subvert gender expectations. Truthfully, I bought the shoes because I thought they were cool, attention-grabbing, and I had an Adidas coupon. I knew I'd get comments about the shoes due to the color, but getting comments on the uniqueness of your shoes is something a sneakerhead looks forward too. Thinking more deeply, there's something more important at stake. I came across this Huffington Post article while preparing to write this blog post. The article is written by the mother of a then five-year-old boy who loves to wear pink but is forced to put up with adults who question his choices. While I've had the pleasure of wearing pink shoes and enjoyed the positive feedback, there are clearly many others who have been unable to do the same due to societal restrictions. While I may not have originally had a feminist statement in mind when purchasing the shoes, I look forward to the day when someone asks me why I'm wearing pink shoes. I'll be sure to ask them why not, and explain that pink isn't just for girls these days, in fact it never was.


Joterias! said...

Great article Omar! I had little knowledge of “sneakerheads” until I read your article, which reminded me of the popular guys in my high school, who collected shoes. This was back in the early 2000s, when urban wear was popular, and clunky Lugz and Timbs were the craze. [] I wasn’t popular then, and I couldn’t afford to keep up with the trend. Still, I found it fascinating that cholo-looking dudes were purchasing numerous pairs of shoes, proudly showing them off, and caring for them just like Carrie did for her stiletto heels in "Sex and the City." As you can imagine, this made for amusing retorts when they, the cholo-looking dudes, launched homophobic epithets at me—as if the pot could call the kettle black.

Post high school, I went through a baby-pink phase that didn’t pan out well, because, unlike pink-wearing rappers, I lacked masculine stock to fall back on. [] People made assumptions about my sexuality based on my pink attire; they pigeonholed me as a femme gay, and then made further assumptions based on that. In retrospect, though I did face the world looking like I was ready for an Easter egg hunt, I find the assumptions folks made absurd and comical.

It’s a shame, however, that younger generations continue to make assumptions based on colors. At a former job, I led a lesson plan for youths on how advertisers sell ideas that consumers then take for granted. A clip from the YouTube channel “feministfrequency,” discussing how toy manufacturers presume that girls prefer toys in soft pastels hues proved controversial.
[] The majority of the youths agreed that girls naturally prefer pink, and stated that they would be troubled if they had a son who preferred pink. A few youths did, however, note that a few boys could pull off pink.

Given my anecdotes, I wonder if people who admire your shoes also make similar assumptions about you, or if they read you as a masculine man, who’s (unwittingly) subverting gender norms? And if mentioning that you’re a sneakerhead mitigates the number of assumptions folks make? Still, I respect you for wearing pink shoes because you ARE subverting gender norms, and making it easier for boys who want to wear pink to be comfortable wearing pink.

Joterias! said...
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