Monday, January 2, 2012

Walking a mile in their shoes

Happy 2012!  I hope you've all enjoyed these past few weeks.  I know my holidays were insane, but also a lot of fun (except for the part where the husband person got sick, but he's okay now).

It's not going to come as a shock to anybody that I'm a fan of shopping with a purpose.  I don't work at Ten Thousand Villages for nothing, after all.  Today's blog post comes at the request of my friend Emma.  Emma recently acquired a new pair of shoes, a fact which by itself is not inherently blog-worthy, but it becomes so when I explain that they're not just any shoes - they're TOMS Shoes.

Tom isn't a person, by the way.  The founder of the company is a guy called Blake.  In 2006, Blake Mycoskie was in Argentina, where he discovered that a lot of children didn't have shoes.  I never thought about it before reading their website, but going without shoes is actually a huge problem.  For one thing, people in developing countries (like Argentina) can pick up a number of diseases from the dirt through the skin on the bottom of their feet, or by having foot injuries become infected.  For another, many of those kids couldn't go to school because shoes were a required part of the school uniform and their families just couldn't afford them. 

Blake, being a stand-up sort of guy, wanted to make a difference.  So he headed back to America and started TOMS Shoes.  It's a fairly simple concept - every time someone purchased a pair of shoes from his new company, the company would donate a pair of shoes to a child in need.  And boy, did that simple idea take off!  Later that same year, Blake and a small entourage of family, friends and employees returned to Argentina and doled out ten thousand pairs of shoes.  That was how well people responded to the concept.

In the six years since then, TOMS has grown exponentially.  You can now purchase not only shoes through them, but also sunglasses, sweatshirts, scarves, t-shirts, jewelry, hats, and more.  Every purchase buys a pair of shoes for a needy child somewhere in the world.  They also offer a pretty nifty gift pack for $50; you get a DVD of the documentary that tells the TOMS Shoes story, a poster for the company, and a $50 gift card.

Not a fan of shopping online?  Not a problem.  Use their store locator to find a shoe store in your area that carries TOMS Shoes.

They call the movement "One for One," which sums it up pretty well.  College students are encouraged to check out the campus clubs - fill in the application and they'll put you in touch with the club at your campus, or help you to start one if there's not one already in place.  You'll help spread awareness about this amazing project.  Not in college?  Everyone is invited to participate in One Day Without Shoes, a delightfully gimmicky event in April where you spend one whole day doing what you'd be doing anyway - you just don't wear shoes while you do it.  The idea is to make people wonder why you're going barefoot, and then tell them about TOMS Shoes and the good it does.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the shoes are really, really cute. It's all their own in-house brand, but they reflect popular styles. You can get boots, pumps, sneakers, loafers. There's a category identified as "Campus Classics," which has shoes in the color schemes of a few state universities. There's even an entire line of wedding shoes. Shoes are available for men, women, and children alike. And every last purchase will help a child in need.

Ballet flats are coming this spring.  I kind of secretly love those, so I've just signed up on the subscriber list to be notified when they arrive.  Nerds like cute shoes too.


  1. I love TOMS... such a great concept!! I love that you can buy them at Whole Foods. The first time we saw them there, my younger daughter said, "OHMYGOSH! Can you EAT these shoes when you're done with them?" That's another great concept...

  2. I like your kid, Heather! :)

  3. My sister loves TOMS, she has a bunch of them. I don't have any yet but I'm going to get some of those really cute lace ones!

    There is another interesting thing you might want to add about the TOMS: the ability to customize. I know the huge thing to do in the art community at college was to paint the TOMS. I have seen some wickedly cool designs on custom painted TOMS.


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