Nobody loves squeezing into shoes that are too tight. Why would we? It’s uncomfortable and unhealthy – and it just feels wrong. And we find it equally wrong to squeeze people into narrow pigeonholes on the basis of gender labels.
Wildling Shoes stands for the exact opposite: for liberated toes and the freedom for everyone to grow and develop as individuals. That’s why all of the Wildling Shoes models are for everybody, and the shop doesn’t divide them into “women’s” and “men’s,” and “boys” and “girls,” as is the widely common and unfortunate practice in the fashion industry to this day.
Lighthearted and free rather than girl or boy
Cheering joyously on the swing, skyward bound, eyes shining with delight and feeling the rush of the wind in their hair. Dancing on tiptoes and jumping straight into the mud puddle with both feet. Putting the stuffed pink unicorn to bed with the dinosaur. Loud, brazen, and daring in one moment, sensitive and vulnerable in the next. The ability to develop and flourish freely, in a safe and carefree environment – all children should experience such freedom, regardless of social norms about what is considered typical for a girl or a boy. And why should that end with adulthood?
People come into this world and are assigned a gender at birth based on their physical characteristics, regardless of their gender identity. If the gender they perceive for themselves goes on to conform with the gender they were assigned, they are said to be cis women and cis men. That said, there are also people who are trans* (meaning that they identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth). There are people who are inter* (meaning that their physical characteristics are not clearly defined at birth). There are people who are non-binary (meaning that their gender identity is outside the spectrum of female and male binary categorization). And there are many other gender identities beyond this. So what does that have to do with clothing and shoes? Exactly: nothing at all, actually. Wildling shoes are for people’s feet. And people are diverse, just like their bodies are – and their tastes most certainly are. What everyone has in common? The right to develop freely – and to have healthy feet, of course.
That’s why Wildling shoes don’t comply with binary gender labels, but instead with the notion of freedom: Freedom for toes, freedom in movement, freedom to sense and experience our own personal boundaries and needs, and to discover ourselves in all of our diversity. This also includes every individual’s freedom to decide for themselves what suits their own tastes and preferences. Without any constraints.
Image: Wildling Shoes | Sarah Pabst
Granted, people that are completely unconstrained by the notion that genders can be divided into two categories or what it means to be a girl or a boy – what kind of behavior and outward appearance that involves – those people are few and far between. After all, most of us were taught this from an early age, as were many generations before us. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we can’t re-educate ourselves!
Is there actually such a thing as men’s feet and women’s feet?
No, there’s not. Sure, society considers small, narrow feet to be more feminine. But, hello reality: That doesn’t mean that women’s feet are actually small and narrow. Instead, this beauty standard is what often leads people to believe that if they want to fit into society’s image of femininity, they have to squeeze their feet into shoes that are too small and too tight. The team working in the Wildling Shoes showrooms witnesses virtually every day just what a liberating “aha” moment people have when they first take off their conventional shoes (frequently one or even two sizes too small) and slip into an unusually roomy Wildling shoe in the correct size.
What’s more, even kids are being squeezed into shoes that are too tight, often unknowingly of course – simply because that’s the way we’ve learned to do things. The unpleasant health issues that can occur as a result include hallux valgus and compromised foot muscle strength. So there really is no such thing as a typical woman’s foot or a typical man’s foot. What does occur, however, are foot problems that progress to become what are called typical foot disorders of people who have worn typical women’s shoes. Thanks a lot, beauty standard!
Image: Wildling Shoes | Nora Tabel
So if there is no such thing as a standard girl’s foot or a standard boy’s foot (which also holds true for adult feet) – what should a girl’s shoe or a boy’s shoe be? Feet are as different as people’s tastes and preferences: some are wider, some are narrower, some are big, and some are small. Which is why when it comes to fit, there is no alternative with Wildling shoes: Their anatomical shape with their wide toe box is the best way to offer freedom of movement and protection to all feet whenever going barefoot is not an option.
And the colors? They’re available to everyone!
Sometimes people ask us why there’s no girl’s shoe in the current season. Or if there’s more to come for boys. And with full conviction, our answer is and remains: The designs and colors are there for everyone! To be sure, every single one of us has probably fallen for the cliché that pink is a girl’s color and blue is for boys. But who is making up the rules? It wasn’t even 100 years ago that pink was a color for guys: Vibrant red was a strong symbolic color, epitomizing combat and blood (a stereotype of hardcore masculinity!). Accordingly, the “little red” – pink – was regarded as the appropriate color for boys. And the Virgin Mary (a stereotype of immaculate femininity!) was often depicted wearing a blue cloak, and as a result, light blue became the perfect color for little girls.
Anyway, blue later became a “masculine” color – perhaps because of naval uniforms and blue workwear, perhaps because of the jeans trend – and pink was suddenly a girl thing (the invention of the pink-loving Barbie no doubt had something to do with that)... But whatever the reason, it just goes to show: These associations are formed by people – and can hence also be changed by people. Yet for some reason, this idea still persists today, this societal notion that we need this pigeonhole.
Whether it’s shoes or pigeonholes: Has squeezing ourselves into some inappropriate mold ever been an option at Wildling Shoes? No! We are part of the Re:generation – and each of us can choose to deliberately unlearn inflexible, constricting ideas. By listening to each other, questioning our thought patterns and behaviors every now and then, and supporting each other in simply being who we want to be. And it’s so cool to see that more and more people are recognizing this, and to see how much we (as individuals and as a company) are constantly learning when we are open to sharing. Let’s celebrate individuality, differing perspectives, and the abundance that comes from our diversity. With our toes wiggling!
Cover image: @_wildundwunderbar_