Ever since the the early 90s when they began pumping out “skate shoes” and those ridiculous high-heeled sneakers, I’ve been wondering who the hell is buying Skechers. They seem to have a storefront in every town in America and an astronomical ad budget, but I can’t remember ever having known anyone who has owned a pair or even seeing anyone wearing them. According to the Wikipedia entry on the company, the CEO founded Skechers after jumping ship on the LA Gear brand, which ought to make a lot of sense to anyone who remembers LA Gear. What makes less sense, however, is the claim that Skechers started out making “skate shoes.” Having grown up in San Diego at the dawn of the skate brand era and surrounded by skateboarders, I can aver that not one skateboarder in town owned a pair of Skechers. In fact, I’m pretty certain that a kid showing up at a skate spot sporting a pair of Skechers might have suffered an ass-kicking, and would at a minimum have had to endure extremely vocal opprobrium. As such, Skechers made a real impression on me as a teenager as yet another dorky brand whose marketing directors were trying to latch onto a sub-culture they had no understanding of and were putting out a product that ended up being nothing but a mark of poseurdom. I know, I’m a dork for having had an opinion about a shoe brand and its relationship to illegitimate claims to skateboarderism, but whatever. I was a teenager with pretensions to punkness and Skechers were the Airborne of shoes.
The company quickly gave up on making skate shoes and moved on to producing a full line of footwear featuring boisterous iridescent accents and marshmallow soles, and I continued to wonder where they were making their money. Was every single person east of I-15 and west of I-95 wearing Skechers unbeknownst to me? I’m still mystified, though I didn’t really care one way or the other about Skechers until the recent launch of their Shape-Ups™ and Tone-Ups™ lines. For those of you who have managed to avoid hearing about Shape-Ups™, they are sneakers that curve up at the heel and toe, thus creating a constant instability that purportedly causes the leg and butt muscles to contract as one walks around. Despite the fact that they don’t work, look ridiculous, and have the potential to cause injury, Skechers has put considerable cash into advertising for the line, including for a Super Bowl ad featuring Kim Kardashian (who the beans is Kim Kardashian and why should I know her name?).
These shoes, apparently, have such a drastic effect on one’s physique that they can replace a personal trainer/boot-knockin’ partner, all for under $100. So Kim Kardashian, despite rumors that she works out several hours a day and only eats calorie-free superfoods imported from Jupiter, in reality just wanders around a mansion in hot pink-accented sneakers. But you don’t have to be a rich, famous (for some fucking reason) sex symbol to benefit from Tone-Ups™. Regular models wear them too.
As annoying as these shoes and their attendant ad spots are, they’re nothing new. “Hey, we know you hate your _____ because we’ve been screaming at you from magazines, billboards, television, movies, and porn since the day you arrived on Earth that you should, but we’ve got the solution! Buy our newest product, and this time it will work and you’ll be a slightly less worthless human being!” At this point, the fuckability industry’s attempts to ensure its ongoing profits at the expense of women’s relationships with themselves and their bodies are so redundant and obvious that many feminists don’t even bother to call attention to them save in particularly egregious cases. These ads, while plenty offensive and retch-inducing, aren’t really all that noteworthy as beauty industry ads go, but there’s more. While watching a little Spongebob last week, I happened to see this ad for Shape-Ups™ for girls:
The laser-like focus on the ass isn’t as prominent in the ad for the girls’ version, but what else is the point of these shoes supposed to be? No one has ever made the claim that they help burn calories in general. Nor are the shoes offered for both girls and boys, despite the fact that all of the kids in the US could use more exercise to counteract the “food” industry’s attempt to turn us all into diabetic corn syrup addicts. The adult model of the shoe is marketed specifically to women, specifically for improving one’s gluteal beauty-mandate adherence, and the girls’ model is no different. Female children want to emulate their adult female role models, and if their adult female role models are concerned with the shape of their asses enough to buy Shape-Ups™, then those girls will get the impression that they ought to do so as well. Why does a female child need a pear-shaped ass? Why should a little girl think about her butt at all? Why would a girl want a gaggle of boys wearing junk food costumes to follow her around and stare at her behind?
The sexualization of female children becomes more audacious at every turn, as do the attempts by the beauty industry to reach into the psyches of ever younger female children and foment a paralyzing sense of inadequacy and worthlessness that can only be partially assuaged by spending money in an endless and fruitless quest for a respite from self-hatred. Please take a minute to contact Skechers and tell them it isn’t cool, that not only do adult women not need to obsess over how hot men think their asses are, but that it’s also disgusting and immoral to sell the idea to female children that they ought to be doing so.