Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shoes with a Purpose

It's been quite a while since I have devoted an entire week to any one thing—search for tuna fish or mashed potatoes or toilets and you'll see what I mean. This week, then, is about shoes.

I have heard of women of even modest income with dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes. I can see how that can happen because there are so many options these days. They come in so many different colors and heel heights and styles, so why not load up? I only have about two dozen, though, and some of those are old and haven't been worn in over a year.

So, I'm thinking about buying a new pair, and I have two brands in mind. I usually look for Børns, but I am learning there are other options. I met an anti-consumerism guy not long ago, and he told me about Toms Shoes. For every pair you buy from Toms, the company donates a pair to a needy child. In 2006, they gave away 60,000 shoes to kids in Argentina and South Africa, and they hoped to give away 200,000 in 2008. I don't know if they made their goal.

They all have a similar design—some in cloth, some in suede and some vegan. I'm not sure I even like the design, but I do like the idea of supporting a company that has a purpose beyond just making a profit. These might be favorite ($65):

The other option is Clarks. I know. Clarks are conventional and mommy shoes—why not just buy some Naturalizers and stuff a tissue up your sleeve? But they have an interesting line they call Artisan. They also have a line they call Soul of Africa. One of the Clarks in the company was so moved by a visit to an orphanage in South Africa that he set up a line of shoes to help make a difference there. The shoes are made by women in South Africa who would otherwise be jobless in a system with no safety net (I have no idea if they are paid well or if Clarks basically runs a sweat shop), and about $10 from each shoe sale goes toward an orphanage in that country.

This socially responsible line of shoes was established some time after 2003, and since then the company has raised $900,000 to build a new orphanage for AIDS orphans. It seems to me they should have raised more than that considering Clarks is a big name brand, but at least it's something. This is my favorite in the Soul of Africa line ($64):

I'm not sure which I'll buy or when I'll spring for my new shoes. Care to vote?


lynn said...

Yep; I'll vote for the mocassin type. They look quite fun and comfy in a non-exciting way if you see what I mean. They're not party shoes are they, but very practical. Yep I'd go for those out of the two.
I feel rather dowdy and ancient now, after your tongue in cheek description as I have two sleeves full of tissues presently. I even, in bed flu-bound today, read the catalogue which plopped through my door and usually goes straight out again to the bin. In it are several innovative gadgets for Easy Living. I was further depressed as I discovered with alarm I was starting to think some of them could be quite handy, even quite fetching. Sigh.

savannah said...

i'm going for the clarks, sugar. i'm at an age where i've decided that my comfort comes first which i have morphed intpo, "i set fashion trends, i don't follow them!" ;) (it works in my world) ll bean has a really cool pair of clogs that a very similar to dansko's. xoxox

(btw, liz clairborne makes really comfy heels that are far from dowdy called "flex" - my favorite pair are sling back 1 1/2" heels in green faux python! i walked all over london in them!)

dive said...

Well done to Tom's Shoes! What a great idea, Robyn.
I'm glad vegan shoes are widely available now. When I was a militant veggie decades ago it was ridiculously difficult to source them and they cost a fortune. Things are much easier now.

I love your mommy comment! Hee hee. I'll not say a word about "mommy-pants" … Oops! Too late!

My vote goes to the Clarks' moccasins. The others are nice but look too much like house slippers; the moccasins are cool.

I hope they give you happy feet!

Rich said...

Robyn what size are your old shoes that you haven't worn in a while - maybe they'll fit me.

MmeBenaut said...

I like the moccasin shoe too. And I love supporting good causes like this. We have a shop here that sells some shoes made in Africa. I bought a pair of thongs (you call them flip flops) made out of leather and antelope hide with neat little buckles on them. They are so unusual! Half the profit goes back to Africa for the kids. The best part is that they are by far the most comfortable shoes I own.

Mark said...

Oh please don't show this to Luvly. She so doesn't need a good reason to buy shoes. :)

Shannon and Paul said...

Rob, Simple also has cute Eco-friendly shoes...


Cute sneaks in particular.