It’s everywhere. It’s in shoes – kids’ shoes. (“Ice cream, Mandrake? Children’s ice cream?”) Francesca Cambridge Mallen, chief campaigner for Let Clothes Be Clothes, went shopping for school shoes with her daughter age 8.
Three shoes are available in her size: two pairs are slip-ons which with a knowing look from Grandma we dismiss immediately. After all, these are what Clarks describe as “sophisticated style” which makes me wonder how they could have missed the fact they are selling to kids, not office staff. When my daughter plunges over in a tangle of shoes and playground, I’ll be sure to console her with how classy she looked doing it.
The third pair are the most common style in the girls range, with a bar across the middle. My daughter tries them on, but is not persuaded by the “you’ll wear them in” pitch and points to how the back of the shoe is jabbing her in the heel. “That’s all we have” we’re told with raised hands, but what about the shoes over there I ask, pointing to a huge display of school shoes. Its Clark’s boys section, but aren’t these just shoes too? I get the “oh how quirky” look from a neighbouring parent, but the first pair our of the mysterious backroom are perfect. BINGO.
The back of the shoe is visibly wider with actual padding, despite the sizing being the same. The shoes are enclosed meaning the whole of my daughter’s foot is covered from the elements – a style not offered to girls at all. They are a trainer style, which any podiatrist would swoon at, and as she races past mountains of shoe boxes and meandering children, my daughter is clearly very happy.
Clarks has made it easy for me to go to their website and see what the respective shoes look like.
These girls’ school shoes from our Gloforms collection, complete with toy and torch, use a classic Mary Jane profile with bow detailing, silver heart charm and glittery sock. Black leather with a glossy trim is teamed with a durable rubber outsole with cleats for added grip, while the padded collar, riptape fastening and Agion linings are practical additions.
These boys’ school shoes from our new Gloforms collection, complete with toy and torch, are perfect for being in the playground. Robust black leather, high abrasion band and cleated rubber outsole ensure durability and grip. The double riptape fastening and Agion linings are practical additions, while the Gloforms character on the heel and sole add fun.
It could hardly be any more obvious, could it.
At some point in the last 30 years Clark’s have changed their focus from comfortable and practical children’s shoes, to shoes marred by gender stereotypes. Check out the latest Gloforms campaign, the strong and assertive boy characters, ready for action, opposite the dreamy eyed female ones with heart, floral bow or crown. The latest tagline “lasting comfort so kids can be kids” doesn’t seem to apply to girls. Have they tried to kick a football in slip-on flats? Or walked to school in open bar shoes through mud and rain? Have they seen how girls climb, jump, swing and run too? As my daughter says when we leave, maybe its time Clarks went back to school and looked for themselves.
A friend wrote recently about shopping for an infant and finding that nearly all the “girls'” clothes (there were none for just infants or babies) were pink, while “boys'” clothes were in a range of colors.
Why did we even bother?