This Man’s Shoes
Click bait fashion articles make Dr. Kwame M. Brown gaze at his shoes.
We have all seen the typical click bait, often judgmental, articles about how to “look better” and “dress for success” in magazines and on social media. I have also heard phrases like “you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes”. It is that last statement that was running through my mind as I looked down at my worn, dilapidated shoes this Sunday morning at a campus event. I want to offer a different perspective.
Before I go further, let me tell you that I am actually a closet fashion bug. My wife used to work in fashion, and I really love the design of clothing. I watch Project Runway and marvel at the gifts the designers have. So this is not coming from someone who has no appreciation of design. This is coming from someone who appreciates life more.
Shoes tell you a lot about a man…
What does the wrinkled, scuffed leather on my black shoes in this picture tell you? What of my life and character can you glean?
Can you tell that I am not “successful”?
Well, that depends on how you define “success”. I live my life as a change agent, and as a truth seeker. I have been quite successful at changing hearts, minds and bodies in my career as a teacher, coach, entrepreneur and administrator. I have not been as successful at commanding a six figure salary. I apologize.
I am a college professor at a small historically black university (HBCU). I do not make much money. Could I theoretically buy a new pair of shoes? Yes, but that would require me giving up something more important this month – like maybe a night out with my beautiful, loving, creative, hardworking wife.
Can you tell that my shoes in this picture are pointed toward the next thing I’m doing to make the world a better place?
I am a man of action and purpose. If I could also be a man of high fashion, maybe I would be. But even if I had a ton of money, shopping in the mall is not really where I would like to spend my time. I like to pick out nice clothes. But I also tend to wear them until they have holes – because I don’t want to go back to the store. As the meme says: “Ain’t nobody got time for that”. I use my shoes to protect my feet from rocks and glass as I make my way to the next task. When I buy them, I buy what I think looks nice without breaking the bank. You will see me wearing these current shoes until they make my feet hurt or fall apart. You will also find me barefoot moving around in my office as I write grants, exams, and articles.
Can you tell I care more about making a difference in the world than your approval of my fashion sense or categorization of my socioeconomic status?
This kind of conversation about what I should be doing to “look better”, and making judgments about a whole person just from looking at the shoes they have on at present makes me grateful to have found someone that loves me for who I am. I shudder at the thought of being completely rejected because of my shoes. I shudder at what that means for our society. I shudder at the thought that picking the right tie out means that NOW you think I know something about child development, or neuroscience, or can help solve problems.
If you can tell all of that by looking at these 15 year old shoes that I wear every day, then you’re right. You can tell a lot about this man by his shoes.
We care far too much about financial wealth and the appearance of such, and not enough about true riches like community, joy, playfulness, and helping others. This man and his shoes are taking a stand. Will you walk with me, or stand on the side to figure out if you like my shoes enough to value me as a person? Stop looking at my shoes and look into my eyes. I’ll give you a smile and a hello. Then I will keep it moving in my 15 year old shoes and 11 year old Chevy Impala.
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