So there you are, shopping for shoes online, as even the most ardent “Go to the shop! Support local business!! TRY ON THE SHOES!!!” advocates do in 2019.
Something catches your eye. You click into that shoe’s page, to get a closer look. You revel in the leather. In the perfectly balanced pattern design. In the details. The clean stitching. The perfectly compatible outsole that seems like it was ordained by the shoe god God Shoegod himself. Maybe the brogued toe cap, or the pinking, or hell, even the eyelets, the kind of eyelets that stir up songs of celebration deep within your soul.
You picture yourself wearing them, in countless permutations: with different pants, in different social or work situations. Or maybe with no pants, at home, on the couch, while you watch NBA highlights on YouTube (definitely not a personal story right there). You’ve decided, immediately or perhaps as you spend more time gazing at them, that you’re deeply, madly, uncontrollably in love.
And then you realize: there’s no overhead shot of the shoes.
At this point, if you have any sense to you at all, you crumble. You become uncertain. You walk everything back, every swooning feeling you’ve had. Because while you know what the shoe looks like, in a general sense, you realize you have little idea what the shoe looks like in a slightly important situation: ON YOUR FEET.
I got to this horrible place just the other day. I was in love. And then I was lost. I won’t say on the site of which shop, but rest assured the person who owns it was the first to receive this article when I published it, and I shamed him. I shamed him good. And shamed, he should be.
This story is my plea. To shoemakers, to shop owners, to people selling shoes on eBay or Grailed or forum For Sale threads. Please, for the love of God Shoegod, always, always, always post direct overhead shots of the shoes you’re selling. Always. If you start to pay attention, you’ll be shocked—some of the biggest and best companies and shops just don’t do it. This must change!
Shoes are aesthetic beings. Yes, they are the product of craftsmanship, and manufacturing, and metric f-ton of hard, hard work. The wise among us care deeply about how they’re built, and with what, and where. The way they fit is absolutely crucial to legitimately enjoying them. But the ones we decide to buy, in most cases, are things we want to look at, for a long long time.
And where do we look at them most? (No, the answer is not “Instagram”.) On our feet! From above. While we walk. While we ride the train. While we sit, in a work meeting, stirred not by the 401k presentation deck (although you really should pay attention to that, at least somewhat), but by our bluchers, our oxfords, our loafers, our service boots. There are not (yet, at least) floor-level mirrors throughout the entire world, so we can see how they look from the side. We see them when we look down. And to decide to buy them online, we need to see the same exact thing.
We all like different shapes of shoes, for different purposes. The hardcore among us can rank their favorite lasts from different brands with a level of unblinking conviction that would frighten the unitiatied. Some are as round as half a roulette wheel. Others sweep and chisel and do things that we might love, or might personally despise. If we can’t see that shape, we are lost—or perhaps worse, apt to be disappointed when they show up at our doorstep, ecstatic excitement just waiting to be dashed, free return shipping be damned.
But there’s more tossed away to the unknown than just pure shape. How the sole extends out from the perimeter of the upper. How the welt stitching pleases our eye. How far the split-toe extends into the apron, or the vamp on your potential new loafers reaches back towards your ankles.
So, person selling shoes: please take these photos! You’ve already got the camera out. Do everyone a favor and take the shots, directly over the top of the shoe. Do the other ones too! Those are also very important, of course!
But absolutely, 1000%, do these. Figure out the shadows, figure out whatever else needs to be figured out. Just take them. Show us everything. Show us our future. Show us something we’ll love.