TOMS by Lindsay Swiggum

I remember a day a few years ago when I was going through my errands and I saw this woman wearing an interesting pair of shoes.  They were red and there wasn’t anything very special about them, they reminded me of a very light moccasin.  I looked more closely at them and saw a tag that said TOMS.  I had never seen this brand before and she walked away and so I continued on with my day and did not really think any more of the shoe.  A few weeks later I heard TOMS come up in a conversation and immediately I thought of those red shoes that woman was wearing.   It was after I overheard that conversation when I looked up these shoes on the internet and found the most amazing story. Back in 2006 an American man named Blake Mycoskie was traveling in Argentina.  When he was there he befriended the children and he came to the realization that none of the children owned a pair of shoes.   This moment was his inspiration to create a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need.  One for One is what they call it.  Later that year he created the company, he returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends, and staff with 10,000 pairs of shoes for children made possible by TOMS customers. The reason Blake decided to give shoes to children was because in developing countries many children grow up barefoot.   Whether they are playing, doing chores, or going to school they are at risk of many diseases.  One of the leading causes of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases which can penetrate the skin through bare feet.   Simply by wearing shoes these diseases can be prevented along with the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.  Also, a very obvious reason to wear shoes is the prevention of receiving cuts and sores which can be extremely painful and easily become infected which is very dangerous for the child.  Finally, many times children cannot attend school because shoes are a required part of their uniform.  If the child does not receive an education, they do not have the opportunity to realize their potential. So, where is the art or media form that is promoting social change?  That’s simple: The Shoes.  This past month we have been talking about all different art forms and ways to inspire social change.  We have defined art as paintings, sculptures, monuments, design, posters, billboards, performance, the list goes on… Essentially anything can be art if it has meaning behind it.  Rarely can I go somewhere in my week without seeing someone with a pair of TOMS shoes on their feet.   What an innovative idea, a unique type of shoe has been created that is not extremely flashy, but will grab your attention if you see them.  They are unique enough to make you question what shoe they are if you have never seen them before, and if you have you know it’s a TOMS shoe.  If you purchase the shoe you are telling the story and changing the lives of children all over the world simply by wearing them…  One for One.

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