There is a culture within the classes where the shoes on ones feet reflect social status, or how a person wants to be perceived. But shoes are much more than a symbol of hierarchy. Shoes were originally invented to protect and comfort the human foot during a wide variety of activities. Cavemen wrapped their feet in animal skins, and now, through centuries of innovation and engineering there are countless footwear categories, brands, and styles covering every sport and activity imaginable. Although mass production has made shoes more readily available around the globe, unfortunately, not everyone in this world is privileged enough to own a pair.
That’s why these days it’s important to support companies that take it upon themselves to make a difference in the world around them through the fairness of their manufacturing process, and the structure of their business model. Companies like Patagonia, Billabong, and TOMS shoes take these extra measures very seriously, and we like to support them for that reason. Since 2006, TOMS shoes has implemented their One for One program. This initiative has allowed TOMS to give shoes to people in need around the world every time a pair is sold. This program has benefited people in over 20 countries and as of September, 2010, they’ve given away over 1,000,000 shoes. An exchange such as this is extremely crucial in developing countries, where soil-transmitted diseases are among the leading causes of illness. The shoes provided to these individuals helps prevent these diseases and the long-term harm they cause. Not only that, but in some cases lack of shoes prevents children from gaining admittance to school, reiterating that shoes put an individual into a different social class and prevent them from improving your life and stature within society.
TOMS manufacturing practices are essentially an open-book and exist in Argentina, China, and Ethiopia under a watchful, and always improving eye. Blake Mycoskie (TOMS founder) was on a trip to Argentina when he experienced the poverty and struggles of the area first-hand. Mycoskie recognized the traditional Argentine alpargata shoe as the best solution. He reengineered the design using recycled materials and prepared it for the US market with the mission to inspire a better tomorrow by taking action today.
I recently learned that TOMS also does “One for One” on their eyewear line, helping less fortunate people see. Every pair of TOMS glasses sold will provide one person around the world with medical treatment, or a pair of prescription glasses, or sight-saving surgery. And since most blinding conditions are not only treatable, but curable, this is yet again another massive movement for the for-profit company with a giving core.