Caution: images and content that may offend
This billboard is on the side of a shop near where I live:
Yesterday my wife, Kate, and I were stopped at lights opposite the ad and this touched off a discussion about advertising to sell shoes. I mentioned that a while ago I had intended doing a Bytes post on the sexism and violence used in advertising men’s shoes, not only in the past but right up to the present, but that I hadn't gotten around to it. Kate expressed surprise that that might still be happening so I said that I would do it as the next post.
Below are some comments and examples, past and present, of what I am talking about.
In some cultures shoes are considered unclean, hence the intended insult when Iraqi journalist Myntadhar al-Zaidi shouted at President George W Bush "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog" and threw his shoes at Bush. For the most part, at least in Western culture, shoes are considered not only functional but also as an important fashion item that can be quite sexy. (According to Byter Roberta, “Fuck me shoes” are so called because when women get home when wearing them they declare “Fuck me, these are uncomfortable, why did I buy them?”)
It is easier to make women’s shoes sexy in advertising than men’s but there are major fails in the advertising of shoes of both sexes. Decide for yourself whether the ads that follow are fails or whether they tick the boxes.
Today: Men’s Shoes. Women’s Shoes next week.
John White shoes, not a very subtle message:
Not a shoe ad, this one’s for Kiwi Shoe polish. Scantily clad, miniature women polishing men’s shoes, with undertones of slavery...
An ad by Weyenberg Massagic Footwear, 1972. Anwering protests about the ad at the time, Weyenberg claimed that the shoe company was taking a stand for masculinity and against the women's liberation movement.
Thankfully attitudes have changed.
Or have they?
Max Shoes is a company that makes and sells inexpensive shoes. Could the ads be deliberately provocative to attract attention?
"I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right."
– Attributed to Mae West and numerous others.
Another that is not a shoe ad but equally tasteless for men’s slacks. Another message from the past...
American Apparel is a clothing company that sells simple, yet fashionable clothes, that manufactures in LA rather than in China, refuses to employ sweatshop labour and pays its workers well over the minimum wage. Employees received full benefits and subsidises English lessons on company time. So why does it use advertising that in many cases is borderline soft porn and certainly objectifying of women. Another example of simply spelling the name right? For those who want to see more, Google “American Apparel Sexist Ads”; here is a milder form for shoes...
Get Windsor Smith shoes and have your fantasies become reality... the sad thing is that the advertising works.
Whereas the advertising for men’s shoes seems to be mostly based on the advertising philosophy that sex sells, the advertising of women’s shoes (next week) contains a high degree of violence. Perhaps sexy advertising for men caters to male fantasies and egos, violent ads for women’s shoes may convey empowerment and rebellion. That’s my take on it.