If you’ve spent any time at all in a gym lately, you’ve no doubt seen toeshoes, the ridiculous footwear pictured at left that are now all the rage with the workout set, or with those who wish to project the image that they’re part of the workout set.
Description-wise, they’re literally shoes with toes, giving one’s feet a strange, simian appearance. Think gloves for your feet. Apparently they’re supposed to offer some kind of advantage to the exercise experience, but I can’t see how because they don’t look to offer any foot support at all (‘You don’t need support,’ one toeshoe wearing friend told me. ‘That’s a myth invented by shoe companies.’)
Um, OK, but when asked, he was still hard pressed to offer up any of their supposed athletic advantages, because to me that whole ‘no support needed’ argument sounds like a lot of marketing crap invented by the toeshoe companies. I write marketing crap for a living, so I know marketing crap when I hear it. When I asked him if he could walk on glass or over hot coals while wearing them, he just called me ’difficult’ and walked away.
Or I should say padded away, as they seemed to force him to walk flat-footed and slightly forward with ape-like gait, almost like a waddle. All he needed to do was drag his knuckles on the ground, let his body hair grow out, and pick bugs off himself or someone else and the transformation from man to ape would be nearly complete.
Then again, Coco the talking gorilla is a good deal smarter than this dude, so comparing him to an ape might actually be an insult to the rest of the apes. Because I don’t think even the dumbest of simians would be stupid enough to wear toeshoes in public, let alone defend the supposed virtues they bring to the gym.
It’s well known that people at big city gyms sometimes wear the craziest things, particularly in a free-wheeling town like San Francisco; there’s a guy at my gym who dresses like a 70s porn star, complete with the cut-off denim Daisy Dukes and tank top that was too tight back in 1974 when he was shaking his booty to the Village People. I admire his complete lack of self-consciousness, actually. I gotta say he’s got balls, because geez, you can practically see ‘em!
Anyway … my point is that toeshoes don’t look so ridiculous at the gym, especially when there are so many other ridiculous things to look at. What gets me is when people make them their daily footwear of choice, wearing them to work, on dates, to weddings or funerals — everywhere but the gym.
I’m guessing this is supposed to give them the appearance of someone who leads an active, athletic lifestyle, someone who spends their weekends rappelling or competing in Ironman competitions. You see this a lot in weekend warrior bicyclists who parade around the coffee shop in their lycra and spandex like they’re training for the Tour de France, even if all they did was bike the three blocks from home.
Perhaps this is their way of making a fashion statement — Tim Gunn might call it athlete chic, but even that maestro of fashion couldn’t make this unfortunate toeshoe fad work. And fittingly, they now come in various colors, each one more garish and outlandish than the other, because when you’re wearing something really ridiculous on your feet you really want to call even more attention to them.
Toe shoes apparently fall under the Barefoot Sports category (who knew?) and all the usual footwear suspects are in on the trend. One toeshoe company puts out a version called FiveFingers, which to me is ironic as all get out, being they have nothing at all to do with your fingers. Didn’t anyone toss out TenToes during one of those marketing brainstorming sessions? They’re also controversial enough to have earned a ban from the US Army, and that’s just too ridiculous for me to get into any further.
But no matter the pros or cons, I just can’t get past the simian aspect of the whole look (although I’m thinking they’d probably work to your advantage in climbing trees). The other day I saw a guy wearing a dark brown pair, and I swear I expected to see claws!
No, to me they represent a subtle form of regression, of slowly working our way backwards to our simian roots — evolution come full circle, if you will. And that’s a dangerous conceit.
Haven’t these toeshoe wearers seen last year’s ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ or any of the other POTA movies, or even the short-lived 1974 TV show? A planet of apes world be violent and chaotic, one of god-awful fashions and questionable hygiene — Charlton Heston didn’t call them “damn, dirty apes” for nothin’. Why do we want to put ourselves one step closer to all that?
Thirty-six years ago the new wave group Devo urgently asked, “Are we not men…?” arguing that de-evolution from man to beast had not only begun, but was in a fairly advanced stage. That was in 1977, and since then mankind has in many ways gotten stupider, cruder, courser, increasingly indulgent in the basic instincts — you know, like animals.
So now we have fashions that make us look like animals. What’s next, a strap-on prehensile tail? A neck muffler that gives the impression of gills? Pull-over knitted caps with giant elephant ears (all fake, of course – no animals were harmed in the writing of this essay). Next thing you know Coco the talking gorilla is the new host of Project Runway.
That’s a much broader discussion for another time, but at this particular moment in history when humans seem to be more animal than animals, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to dress like them. If that’s not enough to convince you, check out this visual below. That guy, second from right? He’s wearing toeshoes.