This is undoubtedly a familiar rule of thumb in fashion design: thin for women, thick for men. Hence, strappy sandals and wispy thin jewelry chains for the ladies, chunky fishermen’s sandals and boxy links for the gents.
With that in mind, here I am wearing a pair of good-looking sandals:
Two things to notice. First, this isn’t a style men will really find anywhere, although, looking hard enough, some roughly comparable styles can be found. Second, the toe loop and crossing upper strap – the sandal in general – is robust enough to achieve a style that is unisex and suitably stylish for men.
This would be a rather strange way to talk about a pair of shoes, except for the fact that this particular pair, called Tanline comes from Simple Shoes’ women’s line from days gone by. Beyond illustrating how women’s styles today are granted, through our cultural biases, a flexibility not found in men’s style – women can wear men’s clothes and still look feminine while the vice-versa isn’t the case – it reflects a curious kind of decision-making process behind what products to offer and how to market these products in light of cultural fashion expectations. In other words, if you have a unisex style, why limit yourself to one sex?
Looking at Simple Shoes’ current offerings in the sandals department – their sneakers actually are pretty snappy all around, for women AND men – we find, well, disappointment. Here’s the men’s line, and here’s the women’s line. Flip flops for men – boring! – and a few styles beyond the flip-flop for women, including the gladiator-style TeeToe and this one, called Glider:
For comparison’s sake, take a look at these shoes from Birkenstock. The one on the left is Gizeh, Birkenstock’s thong sandal for women. Although not available in the US, for whatever reason, the sandal on the right is Birkenstock’s masculine counterpart, Ramses. The major difference lies in thickness of the straps and the way in which the thong strap connects to the upper; it’s far more pinched in Gizeh then it is in Ramses.
Question: why can Birkenstock offer essentially the same style to both men and women, but not Simple Shoes? Like Tanline, there is nothing about Glider that is specifically feminine. Glider is also more appealing in terms of its contemporary styling and materials, although I admit I’m not exactly a fan of Birkenstocks in the first place. In a case of shooting itself in the foot – ha, ha – it seems to me that Simple Shoes is shutting out potential customers.
During the holidays, when I saw that Simple Shoes added TeeToe to their women’s line (before adding Glider), I eMailed Customer Service to express my desire for a bit more variety. They can’t satisfy their clients if they don’t know what their clients want, right? This is the answer I received:
Thank you for your email. I understand your disdain at our Men’s choices in shoes. However, Simple is always working on new styles for men. If you could please keep checking www.simpleshoes.com for updates on Men’s choices, that would be wonderful.Disdain really is too strong a word, especially since I really want to be able to support a company that embodies values I hold and I didn't send out an angry missy. And they do have cool products that reflect that hip planet-saving philosophy – I bought a messenger bag from them and I love it. But I just can’t bring myself to buy a pair of flip-flops. I wish Simple Shoes weren't always so simple in their sandal styling - although, in all fairness, their line of ecosneaks is looking pretty good.