Saturday, 30 August 2014

On School Shoes

Yesterday I took my daughter to Clarks to buy some new school shoes. She didn't actually need new shoes, she has a perfectly good pair of Clarks shoes that still fit her, but they are boys' shoes. Alice has worn boys' shoes to school for a number of years (for the reasons she outlines below), but she is starting a new school next week and is feeling a little anxious about fitting in and making new friends, so she asked if I would buy her a pair of girls' shoes. 

When we arrived in the shop we discovered that there was a new element to the measuring process. It involved Alice having to select a BOY or GIRL icon on the iPad and then choose either a pink or blue character, or the Clarks logo (which Alice chose). When I asked why she needed to select BOY or GIRL I was told it was to increase interactivity. So, before we even got down to the matter of the shoes themselves, we were faced with boy/girl, blue/pink choices. 

We looked through the girls' shoes. The vast majority were ballet style - pretty impractical for school, especially in a country where it rains frequently. The shoes that covered the whole foot were pointy, not the kind of shoes in which you'd want to play football at break times. 

Alice tried on some shoes. And then she had to decide whether being physically comfortable was more important than being socially comfortable. She chose to keep wearing her boys' shoes. 

This morning I saw a link to Hollie McNish's blog on school shoes. And I thought, instead of just complaining around the dinner table (yet again), I'd write about my experience, too. It's only when a lot of people point these things out that things can change, right?

When my daughter saw what I was doing, she decided that she wanted to write to Clarks. I helped her with one or two spellings, but the words are all her own (as are the "air quotes").

Edited to add:

I went to buy P.E pumps and discovered that they now look like this. Which reminds me of BIC pens for her


  1. Wow stumbled upon your blog whilst reading 'a song for Issy Bradley' I have an 8 year old daughter who feels exactly the same, yet would struggle to put her point so eloquently! We tried on several pairs of these 'girly' shoes in Clark's recently and you could see the disappointment in her face, particularly as her brothers have great trainer-style school shoes. She has also reached an age where, although she will not give in to dresses, she doesn't want to be noticed to be different. I was disappointed in Clark's. We looked online and found a great pair of sketchers 'girls' shoes which were a good compromise, but unfortunately, didn't come in half sizes, so they are too big!!!! What a nightmare and how ridiculous that in 2014 our children are still being forced into gender roles that don't allow them to be themselves (whoever they choose to be!) well done to you and your daughter! X

  2. Thanks Lauren, and thanks for the tip, Amy!

  3. Hi Carys - fab blog post and love Alice's letter. I hope that Clarks reply - please share it if they do :)

    On a separate - but similar - note, I saw this article over on Pop Culture today and thought it was pretty excellent, too


  4. What a great letter, I hope Clarks reply. I wasn't sure about the whole iPad experience either when we got our shoes recently. My daughter is really getting into football so we shall see where this takes us in the coming years in the footwear department!

    Ps... Really enjoying reading Issy Bradley at the moment, and looking forward to hearing you speak at Wells festival of literature next month. I'm hoping to apply for an MA in creative writing next year, I'd love to hear your thoughts on completing an MA xx :)

  5. Thanks Jen. I'll definitely post any reply.

    And thank you, Karen. I look forward to meeting you next month!