It’s just as we always thought – you really can tell a lot about a person by the shoes that they wear. And now, thanks to a study performed by the University of Kansas – the home of Dorothy, not the red shoes, they were from Oz – we have evidence to back up our long-held theories.
The team of psychologists found that the style, value, colour and condition of shoes can give away a lot about the wearer’s emotional, political and other vital personality traits. So accurate was their research that observers who were shown a picture of a pair of shoes guessed around 90% of the wearer's personal characteristics.
A group of 63 students examined photographs showing 208 different pairs of shoes belonging to volunteers in the experiment. Each of the volunteers had filled in a personality questionnaire and each was told to provide their most commonly worn shoes for the experiment.
The observers then looked at each pair were asked to guess the gender, age and social status of the owner. This included whether the owner was an extrovert or introvert, had liberal or conservative views, their emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.
The researchers, who reported their findings in the Journal of Research in Personality, said, 'Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers. Shoes serve a practical purpose, and also serve as nonverbal cues with symbolic messages. People tend to pay attention to the shoes they and others wear. Shoes have great variety of styles, brands, looks, and functions. Because of this variety, shoes can carry individual difference information, but do they? We suggest that the answer is yes.'
Naturally some of the results strayed into the blindingly obvious: expensive shoes suggested well-paid wearers, while colourful statement shoes pointed to a wearer who is extroverted. Worn-in but immaculate shoes suggested conscientious people.
Meanwhile, there were some less-obvious links: practical functional shoes are said to belong to agreeable people – we have to concur that uncomfortable shoes can make us a bit cranky - and aggressive people tend to wear ankle boots. Really? The study’s most accurate results were for age, gender and income followed by their emotional stability and agreeableness.
And there’s a lot to be understood about your psychological state by assessing your chosen footwear. According to the Daily Mail, ‘For psychologists, emotional stability is vital as it includes a fear of abandonment, rejection issues and the ability to cope with different kinds of relationships. Those with "attachment anxiety", where they worried about their relationships, tended to have brand new and well-kept shoes. This may be because they worry so much about their appearance and what others may think of them.’
And here’s a warning to all girls: researchers found that ‘the most boring shoes belonged to those who found it hard to form relationships. This is because these people are “aloof and repressive” in their emotions and do not care what others think of them so they do not stand out in their general appearance.’
So next time you’re faced with a potential date, check out his shoes. They’re the key to understanding his sole (sorry).