University of Kansas researchers found that by looking at photos of the shoes people wore most often, their subjects could accurately tell a person’s age, sex, income, and political affiliation. But they could also accurately assign certain personality traits—e.g., people in practical comfortable shoes are perceived as more laid back and relaxed—and they are. Those with masculine shoes are more uptight. People with plain shoes that look new are more likely to be anxious and insecure.
Overall, researcher Omri Gillath found that by examining the style, cost, color, and condition of the shoes, participants were able to predict about 90% of the owner’s personal characteristics.
- Expensive shoes belong to high earners.
- Flashy and colorful footwear belonged to extroverts.
- Shoes that were not new but were spotless belonged to conscientious types.
- Practical and functional shoes belonged to agreeable people.
- Ankle boots reflected more aggressive personalities.
- Uncomfortable looking shoes (surprisingly) were worn by calm personalities.
- Brand new and well-kept shoes were worn by people with attachment anxiety (perhaps worry a lot about what others may think of them).
- Shabbier and less expensive shoes marked liberal thinkers.
- Boring looking shoes were worn by people who found it hard to form relationships BUT study participants couldn’t get that relationship.
What A Woman’s Shoes Say About How She’s Feeling
These are perceptions of current footwear, not what is worn most often.
What a Man’s Shoes Say About Him
Again, these are perceptions, traits others attribute to the wearer, not validated by corresponding personality tests.
- Suede ankle boots = masculine but not aggressive, detail-oriented
- Driving mocs = knows style, a little high-maintenance
- Black dress shoes = pulled together, high self-respect
- Rainbow flip-flops = laid-back, doesn’t succumb to societal expectations
- Timberlands = not-so-rough guy trying to look tough
- Sperry boat shoes = traditionalist, follows dad’s footsteps, wears what he wore every summer growing up
- Merrells = his mom is still shopping for him
- Air Jordans = serious sneakerhead, maybe too self-absorbed?
- Lace-up oxfords = solid, responsible, means business
- Retro Nikes = subtle but looking cool and trendy
- Sandals with socks = lazy, looks silly, simply not acceptable
- Vibram FiveFingers = marches to his own drummer
Usefulness to writers: (1) choose habitual footwear to reflect your character’s character; and (2) have your character choose footwear to create a particular impression.