Women Really Are Shoe-Aholics, Study Shows — And The Problem Is?

Golden Lotus shoes
Image by Linda N. via Flickr

Well, it’s true. Women are shoe-obsessed, according to a British study of 3,000 women:

In analyzing the spending of some 3,000 women, a British pollster finds the average female buys seven new pairs of shoes a year, and for a 67-year period. At close to $400 annually — which may even be lowballing when it comes to North American women — the grand lifetime total tops $26,000.

It’s an astounding figure, to be sure. But with no male comparison, critics say it’s yet another example of shoe purchases having become shorthand for female frivolity.

“It really is a very feminist issue,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. “Men’s excesses are often seen as somehow positive — ‘He works hard, so of course he should have that Rolex’ — whereas women are constantly belittled for them.”

The new survey, conducted by OnePoll for Gocompare.com, doesn’t address male shoe budgets.

Pollsters do, however, report that a quarter of women rarely divulge their shoe purchases to their partner “as he doesn’t understand their obsession,” and that “predictably, 29 per cent of ladies say shoes are the one thing they can’t resist buying, regardless of whether they can afford them.”

This year, I’ve beat the average — nine (so far.) Two pair of athletic shoes; three pairs of flats; a pair of dressy pumps and three pairs of sandals. That’s not typical for me and seven of those (she whimpered) were on sale. None cost more than $100. It adds up, but the number, for me anyway, is less the issue than their longevity.

I blogged here about the recent loss of our local shoe repairman, Mike, who closed his shop a month ago. I keep my shoes (and clothing) for many years, sometimes decades; a pair of monk-straps and loafers date to 1996 and still — thanks to Mike — look new.

Every women knows that new shoes are are easy place to indulge quickly and painlessly. No calories! You can gain — or lose — 5, 10 or 50 pounds — and still wear gorgeous shoes.

Unlike much of life, new shoes are forgiving. If you’re anything over a size 12, looking for beautiful, well-made clothing, good luck with that. Buying shoes doesn’t demand squeezing into a dressing room, or waiting for one. And, if decently made and cared for, they last, unlike much clothing that stains, tears or can’t be altered.

Men, too, have their sprees.

For my Dad, it was safari jackets and Irish tweed hats (and pipes.) The sweetie has an enormous collection of caps that I know will only expand further — and all those golf games add up to serious coin.

They just don’t fit into a closet.

7 thoughts on “Women Really Are Shoe-Aholics, Study Shows — And The Problem Is?

  1. tonycanuck

    I don’t have to understand shoe addiction to realize that its no worse than blowing my extra cash on that 18yo bottle of single malt whisky or buying a coffee every day. In fact its healthier. Picking on shoes specifically does highlight sexist bias on the subject. Spend your money on fun things, do it responsibly, and every once in a while, evaluate why you’re doing it.

    For instance, I find it sad that a wonderful lady once told me that the justification for her so called “frivolous” shoe and clothing purchases is sexism. Staying in fashion, I was told, was a terrible burden shouldered by working women. She is employed as a field engineer in a construction management company and quite frankly I can’t imagine that the contractors and labourers in torn jeans or engineers in golf shirts are really concerned about her pair of Steve Maddens or her H&M top. She’s so rooted in her own ideas of what “taking pride in yourself” looks like that she assumes everyone will think the same. Sadly I think if she wore a golf shirt and plain shoes every day she’d get taken more seriously in her industry.

    Does anyone know if this is a common feeling among women?

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    It’s been said that women dress for other women, i.e. to meet or surpass the standards of their peers. I’ve certainly felt the nasty, raking appraising gaze of other women, eyeing me up and down with clear disdain for my choices or figure, or both. I laugh.

    Depending on the man, and his preferences, a woman in Spandex and 6-inch heels might be no more appealing than one in jeans or a T-shirt. The best men care about our brains and personality as much as what we choose to wear.

    I do think that crazily revealing clothing, at work, is a stupid and distracting choice and I’ve
    blogged about this.

  3. jcalton

    At the 2:08 mark you can see Oliver Stone awkwardly asking the President of Argentina (Cristina Fernandez Kirchner) about her shoe collection:

    After seeing this interaction, I’d go with “feminist issue.”

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Really? Wow. Thanks for sharing.

    I eagerly await the day we focus as much attention on men’s footwear…or its frivolous equivalent.

  5. geekysarah

    I know many women who treat shoe-buying as a form of therapy. Fail a test? Go buy a cute pair of boots and feel like a top model when you strut around campus. Boyfriend cheat? Nothing like a high pair of wedges to feel like a sexy mama again.

    I’d probably be more of a shoe-aholic if I could find cute shoes in my size. I wear a size 4 in women’s, which translates to a size 2 in kids. So, I can get My Little Pony light-up sneakers, but no heels, no sandals with an actual ankle strap, or topless shoes…kids these days and their shoes.

  6. The only response I have to the question posed in the title is to quote a song:
    “The main attraction, distraction
    got ya number than number than numb
    Empty ya pockets son, they got you thinkin that
    What ya need is what they sellin
    Make you think that buyin is rebellin'”

    Yeah, that about sums it up.

  7. Caitlin Kelly

    The fact is, shoes have no calories. If you’re having a lousy day, or want a quick cheer-up, a pair of pretty boots or shoes or sandals will do the job very nicely — and last — where most other forms of pleasure are fleeting or fattening.

    I had adult-sized 9 feet when I was 12…sort of the reverse problem.

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