Friday, November 19, 2010

The TOMS Fever

Young people all over the United States are infected with TOMS fever. TOMS is the brand of shoes that has a unique purpose “One for one.” In other words the company promises that every time a pair of TOMS is purchased another pair goes to a poor child in a developing country.  The price range of a pair of TOMS is between $44.00 and $79.00 depending on the style of the shoes. The design and marketing concept of this brand of shoes came from Blake Mycoskie.  After visiting the country of Argentina, seeing children who lived in poverty and could not afford shoes, inspired this young entrepreneur to create TOMS. One year after the company started, TOMS Shoes was honored with the People’s Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Two years after that, TOMS and Blake Mycoskie were honored again by the Secretary of State’s 2009 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE). This award was presented by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I love the idea of giving shoes to kids. I love the whole concept behind the TOMS shoes. Nevertheless, you need to chew on this: the first time someone walked by wearing a pair of TOMS I immediately recognized them. These shoes are what we call in Latin America “Alpargatas”, a sandal or shoe made out of cloth with a sole of rope or rubber. They are also known in Spain by the name “espadrilles.”  It’s not too crazy to think that the Spanish could have introduced the Alpargatas to the indigenous a long time ago. However, I have no proof for that. Farmers and indigenous people have been using Alpargatas for decades, maybe centuries. Most probably, the kids that inspired Mycoskie were surrounded by adults who walked in these alpargatas, since they are not very expensive. The TOMS design is a copy of a Latin American Traditional shoe.
Even the TOMS banner is a copy of Argentina’s national flag.

Another point that we need to chew on, is the fact that these shoes are not very durable. This is my reasoning: if those shoes can hardly withstand young Americans walking in them on paved roads, how will they withstand walking on graveled roads? Several of my friends have told me that the quality of the shoes is not that good, nevertheless, they invest in it because another pair of shoes go to a child in need. But, for how long that child’s need for shoes will be supplied with that pair you sent him/her?  I say, “four months before he is walking barefooted again!”
With US$25.00 or less one can buy a nice pair of leather espadrilles shoes in my country, Colombia. These shoes have a longer lifespan than TOMS. With that same money one could probably buy two homemade espadrilles.
I will like to see TOMS making some real shoes for real people. 
 check this funny video that was made in Spain

baby toms, so cute.

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