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Apr 29, 2024

A Line in the Sand

Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

Photography By

If a sandal is a shoe, then why wouldn’t we just call them “convertible shoes?” Or call cowboy boots “shoes for people who watch Yellowstone,” slippers “unemployment shoes”? and Crocs “ugly rubber shoes”?

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Courtney’s Opinion: Sandals are shoes 100%…I said what I said.

Legend goes that I was very particular about my clothes when I was little. I wouldn’t leave the house if the hem of my long-sleeved top didn’t touch my wrist bone. I would throw a tantrum if I didn’t like the pants I was wearing. Such a tantrum that one day, after my mother dropped me off at pre-school, I peed in my pants, just so she would have to bring me a change of clothes. 

Fast forward to middle school and things didn’t get much better. Mean girls – especially Jersey girls – thrive in middle school. Bullying was at an all-time high and who you hung out with and what you looked like mattered. 

Gosh, I hated middle school. To alleviate my anxiety around being cool and dressing cool, I maintained a written log of what I wore each day to ensure that I would not repeat an outfit within a two-week span. “Tuesday, February 11, 1986: Gray pants, pink button-down shirt, gray belt, pink and blue socks, brown Bass slip-ons with laces tied in fancy knots.”

(Oh yes, I am a therapist’s dream.) 

These days, my wardrobe is a little simpler and I care a hell of a lot less about what people think. That said, I still try to reflect a certain business casual style because I do go to an office every day and spend my hours in meetings where I attempt to look and sound like I know what I am doing. 

Before I go any further, please allow me to apologize for this ridiculous topic. It doesn’t elude me that people are struggling to make ends meet in Bluffton, that aid workers are dying in Gaza, and Russia and Ukraine are at war. Alas, here we are – debating the ever-titillating topic of whether or not sandals are shoes. 

Um, yes, Barry. Sandals are indeed a part of the larger parent category, if you will, of what you put on your feet. We call these shoes. Sandals are a sub-set of shoes. 

Running down to the mailbox? Let me put my shoes on. 

Going to walk the dog? Let me put my shoes on. 

Time to leave for school? Put your shoes on, kids! 

Packing for a trip? Don’t forget shoes. 

If you step into any major department store, sandals will be found within the shoe department. And the shoe department will be labeled as such. Shoes: second floor. In fact, did you know that Nordstrom was first a shoe store – carrying only shoes? Imagine that. And within that original Nordstrom shoe store you would find sandals. 

Macy’s (which opened in Herald Square, New York City, 128 years before I kept a “what I am wearing to school” journal) is described as “the Great American Department Store – an iconic retailing brand over 740 stores operating coast-to-coast and online. Macy’s offers a first-class selection of top fashion brands including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Clinique, Estée Lauder & Levi’s. In addition to shoes and clothing, Macy’s has a wide variety of housewares, gifts, and furniture in select stores.” 

Does Macy’s century-old marketing call out sandals? Of course not, because sandals fall within the shoe department. 

Likewise, if you prefer to shop online, every major retailer has a shoe category, within which sandals will be found. For example, if browsing (where I invest a significant amount of time and dollars), you would find shoes listed as the primary category, with the following sub-categories below: sandals, heels, loafers, ballets, sneakers. Even Amazon, the retail behemoth, agrees.  

Barry, I don’t see how you win this one. One just cannot argue with J Crew, Macy’s, or Nordstrom – the mother ships of fashion. Leave this one to the experts.  

Barry’s Opinion:

If a sandal is a shoe, then why wouldn’t we just call them “convertible shoes?” Or call cowboy boots “shoes for people who watch Yellowstone,” slippers “unemployment shoes”? and Crocs “ugly rubber shoes”?

The noblest part of any debate is how it helps drive the marketplace of ideas. Courtney and I aren’t just disagreeing on things, we’re helping everyone make more informed decisions on the issues facing us as a society. She presents her side, I present a better side, and everyone is then free to make up their own minds as to which side most closely represents “the truth.”

This month, all that moral relativism goes out the window. Because my position on this is one that I am not willing to concede as mere opinion. It is an empirical truth, and anyone who tells you otherwise is sorely misguided.

This debate started, as they usually do, with beer. I was enjoying a few at Lot 9 with my friend Robert when he made the bold declaration that he was wearing shoes, when in fact he was wearing sandals. Seeing as Robert is a professional attorney, and I am a professional pedant, and beer was involved, this immediately became one of the fiercest debates on the planet. 

In that moment, no point I’ve ever made was more important than proving that sandals aren’t shoes.

You see, my friends, it’s a question of classification. Sandals are not shoes. Sandals are a type of footwear. So are shoes. So are boots, slippers and Crocs. To say otherwise is madness. If sandals are shoes, then so are boots, slippers and Crocs. Extending that logic, if I were to wrap my feet up in duct tape, at some point that strip of duct tape would, by definition, become a shoe.

I felt I made my point very clearly, despite Robert’s determination to believe otherwise (which I was expecting. Robert didn’t become a lawyer to be professionally obstinate. He became a lawyer because it’s the easiest way to make a living by being naturally obstinate). 

So, imagine my shock when I posed the same question to Courtney and she foolishly repeated Robert’s assertion that sandals are shoes. And then I put it on Facebook as a poll and, wouldn’t you know it, turns out everyone on Facebook is equally misguided (which, I believe, is Facebook’s slogan: “We’re all equally misguided here, so come on in and join the shouting match.”).

Do that many people out there not see how silly they’re being? Tap shoes are called that because they’re a type of shoe that makes a tapping noise. Ballet shoes are called that because you wear them while you’re ballet dancing. Tennis shoes are called that because every once in a while someone actually plays tennis in them. Because these are types of shoes. 

If a sandal is a shoe, then why wouldn’t we just call them “convertible shoes?” Or call cowboy boots “shoes for people who watch Yellowstone,” slippers “unemployment shoes”? and Crocs “ugly rubber shoes”?

We don’t call them that because none of these things are shoes. They are all different expressions of the sartorial artform that is footwear. Is it a stupid, pedantic hill to die on? Yes, it is. But I’ll die on it wearing my sandals, my toes basking in the soft sunlight of me being the only person on earth who is right about this. 


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