Think back to your childhood, when you were old enough to turn in your velcro-strap shoes for a pair with real laces. A big, ear-to-ear smile gleamed on your face as you sat down with your mom or dad for your first lesson in shoe tying. You learned how to make the bunny ears, loop them around and pull them tight. It may have been frustrating at times, but once you finally got it right, that feeling of accomplishment was irreplaceable.
Now imagine that you never got to experience that feeling. You never got the hang of shoe tying. You never got to replace your velcro-strap tennis shoes, because you never had them in the first place. This is the unfortunate reality of hundreds of thousands of children around the world.
In 2006 Blake Mycoskie traveled down to Argentina. While there, he met a group of young children who truly inspired him. These children did not have the common luxury that many of us tend to take for granted — shoes. After meeting these children, Mycoskie decided that he wanted to make a change in their lives and the lives of less fortunate children around the world.
He created TOMS Shoes, a company that would be dedicated to putting shoes on the bare feet of children everywhere. “One for One,” the companies motto, symbolizes their mission to give a pair of TOMS to a child in need for every pair that is sold.
In addition to helping less fortunate children, TOMS Shoes also strives to be eco-friendly. The company joined the vegan lifestyle by creating a line of vegan friendly shoes. The shoe itself looks exactly the same as the original TOMS. There is only one slight difference. The original shoe is made out of hemp and recycled plastic, both of which are vegan friendly. The problem with the shoe was the leather sole. TOMS quickly solved this problem by creating a sole made out of microfibers to satisfy the vegan lifestyle.
In order to spread their message, each year TOMS Shoes holds a nationwide event called “TOMS One Day Without Shoes.” People across the world leave their shoes at the door and spend a day barefoot. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness for the children of Argentina and other Third World Countries who have to spend every day without shoes to protect their feet.
This year, the worldwide event was held on April 5. Many students here on campus toughened up the soles of their feet by walking the brick-paved streets of Athens to show their support for the TOMS cause, one of which was freshman Elizabeth Held.
“It is amazing how not wearing shoes can change how your whole body feels. You get this overwhelming sense of new vulnerability,” said Held. The day of the event was one of the usual rainy days that we have become accustomed to here in Athens lately. Held explained that by simply not wearing shoes, she could feel herself beginning to get sick.
This is the second year that Held has participated in One Day Without Shoes and she plans to continue for years to come. After seeing this problem first hand in East Africa, Held wanted to join in and help spread the word about the TOMS cause.
“The roads [in East Africa] are filled with broken glass, animal feces, human waste and anything else you can think of, and from what I saw, you either wore broken sandals or no shoes at all,” recalled Held. “We think just walking to our mailbox barefoot is painful. Try walking 3 miles just for water, or herding your cattle for days at a time without shoes.”
This entire experience was very eye-opening for Held, as well as the thousands of others across the world who showed their support for the less fortunate. “I am very lucky and grateful for what I have,” said Held of what she has learned from this experience. “I can never do enough to educate others about the severity of the problem around the world.”
Chances are, if you don’t already have a pair of TOMS yourself, you have seen students sporting the canvass shoes all around campus. The basic canvass slip on shoe comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. TOMS are known for their ability to form to your foot, creating a comfortable shoe for walking to class, strolling alongside the scenic Hocking River, or sneaking through The Ridges. “I love my TOMS,” says TOMS wearer Jillian Bloemer. “They are so comfortable!”
If you do not already own a pair of TOMS, or if you cannot have enough, look no further than Court St. local boutique, The Other Place, carries a wide variety of TOMS in many styles, colors, and patterns. They have simple pairs in colors like plain black, brown, red, or white, as well as the new spring collection which contains various safari inspired colors and patterns. If you are looking for a slightly dressier look, a pair of TOMS can still suit you. Try a pair of glitters in black, white, pink, silver, or gold. The Other Place even carries a line of wedges by TOMS.
Whether you buy a pair for the style, comfort, or the good cause behind them, you cannot go wrong with a pair of TOMS. Next time you are walking through town, be sure to stop in to The Other Place and help a child in need by purchasing a stylish comfortable pair of TOMS.