Does Comfort Trump Fashion for Post-COVID Shoes?

Fashion industry news has been peppered of late with stories of how people are rethinking their wardrobes in a post-COVID world. For instance, consider shoes. As people stuck at home for the last 18 months begin returning to the office, will their shoe choices reflect a change in attitude about style versus function? Will comfort really be more important than fashion?

A Yahoo! Life piece published in mid-September 2021 seems to suggest as much. That post, originally published by PureWow, cites a growing number of New York City women seen pounding the pavement in shoes that would be considered comfortable first and stylish second or third.

Let us assume the post’s basic premise is correct. That leads to a whole host of other questions:

  • Why was comfort ever secondary to begin with?
  • Will comfort ever take a backseat to fashion again?
  • What are shoes if they are not functional?

It is amazing that such a conversation even has to be had. But such is the history of fashion and clothing. People do not necessarily make their wardrobe choices based solely on function and comfort. Some believe fashion is an equally important factor. Others make their wardrobe choices exclusively on fashion grounds alone.

Shoes Are Functional First

You could make the case that some accessory items do not perform any function at all. In such cases, style could be the number one factor for new purchases. But shoes don’t fit in that category. They are not optional accessories. They are vital pieces of clothing that perform a very specific function.

What is that function? Protecting the feet against any number of things that could hurt them. Shoes protect against sharp objects and wild animals. They protect against hot pavement, ice cold snow, and everything in between. They prevent our feet from being torn to shreds by the world around us.

The most fashionable pair of shoes in the world is of little functional value if they do not protect the feet. Your typical pair of flip-flops is a great example. Flip-flops have limited use because their ability to protect the feet is limited. They will not prevent frostbite in the middle of winter. They will not prevent poison ivy when you’re walking in the woods. You will never see a mountain climber trying to scale Mount Everest in a pair of flip-flops.

Fashion Is Not a Bad Thing

It should be noted that fashion isn’t a bad thing. It’s not wrong to purchase shoes, or any other apparel item for that matter, with style and fashion in mind. The secret is not to let one’s desire for style trump function. Likewise, giving up comfort for style is not a wise idea.

Imagine an attorney who loves his imported Italian dress shoes. He considers them so valuable that he never leaves the house without wearing his GC Tech waterproof overshoes. He always keeps the shoes spotlessly clean and spit polished. His obsessive care for them is understandable given that he spent more than $1,000 on them.

Now, what if the shoes were so uncomfortable that they actually caused pain? What if the attorney returned home to blisters and sores after a full day on his feet? It wouldn’t matter that his shoes were imported from Italy. His comfort would be the main issue, and it would be one of major concern.

Workers are returning to the office after so many months at home. Are they choosing new work shoes based on comfort first? If so, it will be interesting to see how their choices affect what designers do in the future.

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