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You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a person by their shoes. When someone strolls into a room wearing “Birken-socks” (a com­bi­nation of col­orful socks and Birken­stock sandals), you know every­thing you need to know about this person. You could prac­ti­cally predict the rest of their outfit: layers of Patagonia and North Face, com­pleted with some sort of chunky water-bottle clutched at the hip. On campus, you’d likely find this lover of the out­doors under flu­o­rescent lights, working on labs for their biochem major. Though this “Birken-socked” indi­vidual may protest, they do not wear these shoes simply because they’re com­fortable. Casual footwear sends a dis­tinct message about any person’s char­acter. 

Take, for example, the iconic Chuck Taylor con­verse sneaker. Anyone who wears these 90’s‑esque lace up shoes is making an attempt to convey the novelty and youth­fulness of their per­son­ality. You will see every color of Chuck Taylors around the table of stu­dents who interrupt Saga to sing an annoying ren­dition of “Happy birthday” at the top of their lungs, or on the stage with theater majors. Con­verse-wearers are dragging a piece of their childhood into their adult lives. 

The antithesis of Chuck Taylors are none other than Sperrys: a staple in the wardrobe of any preppy college student. Rather than trying to make casual footwear more youthful, these leather shoes make you thirty years older. To keep these elderly-looking shoes from dragging someone into the grave too early, most young people (namely Sigma Chi’s) tend to pair Sperrys with a Vineyard Vines tee or perhaps a solid colored sweater. Either way, Sperrys send the message that a person has spent a good portion of their summer on Grandpa’s yacht. 

Sitting in the middle of this spectrum are Vans. These shoes are asso­ciated with a very dis­tinct type of person. Someone who wears Vans wants the people around them to know that they are not like everyone else. They have a little quirk to their char­acter that shines through with their alter­native music taste and love for obscure cinema. There is a rare occasion wherein a Vans-wearer chose their footwear for the function for which they were created: skate­boarding. But the shoe brand that was lit­erally created for skate­boarders has been hijacked by hip­sters, who wear Vans while working on their slam poetry in Penny’s (because AJ’s is “too basic”). 

Slides, the poor man’s flip-flop sandal, are the ultimate form of casual footwear. They require such little effort to wear, and that is exactly the message they want to convey. People who wear slides want to be known for not caring about their fashion. By trying so hard to not try hard, slides-wearers enter a perfect shoe paradox. If you veer too far into the TV lounge, or the long tables near the dishes, you will get swept into this paradox by its main cul­prits: the ath­letes. 

The shoe does not determine the person, but the person deter­mines the shoe.