To TOMS or not to TOMS?

It’s time for me to get new shoes. When it comes to shoes, I’m not your typical guy. I have some kind of weird affinity for shoes. I have my theories as to why. Let’s just say that Michael Jordan played basketball with some pretty sweet looking shoes while I was in elementary and middle school, and some of my friends would always have the newest Jordans. But my parents always made me shop at PayLess Shoe Source.


A whole store of cheap, poorly made shoes. (Of course this is no longer true for my 13 year old brother who gets top of the line shoes of his choice).

That being said, I have been looking around for new shoes. And I just haven’t been too happy with what I’ve seen. I actually broke down last year and got some nice Nike shoes, which I have never done. I’ve usually always bought Pumas or some other indie/hypster looking shoes. But this year’s line of shoes really haven’t caught my eye, plus I feel pressured to think more about what I am buying and how it affects people’s lives. I haven’t done any research, but I am pretty sure Nike is NOT really known for their good wages and care of their employees throughout the world.

I heard the phrase recently, “Where am I wearing?” — a term coined by Kelsey Timmerman. (He has a whole website about it…) But he brings up a good point. His point is that we should know where the things we are wearing are made because so many of these companies pay horrible wages or require very long hours (such a TEVA in China having their employees work 100+ hour weeks).

When I was recently at an open mic on campus I saw that nearly 75% of the people there were wearing TOMS. The famous shoe company that works on the model of “one for one.” They give one pair of shoes to a child in poverty for every pair of shoes we buy from them. (They are a bit pricey for what you get in my opinion, usually about $65). The story of the founder is pretty cool, and it definitely draws attention to poverty and how to help in tangible ways. (It’s definitely better than Nike).

The issue brought up against TOMS is that it really is like putting a Band-Aid on an open wound. It’s helping things on the back-end rather than the front end. This is because TOMS are made in China. TOMS is a for-profit company rather than a non-profit. There is a really interesting company called SoleRebels in Ethiopia which makes shoes for men and woman and help on the front end of poverty by paying their employees very well and providing great benefits for the family (and they are cheaper).

My potential new TOMS

TOMS really has a certain type of people who buy their shoes. I really do hope that it brings the awareness levels up so that people will be conscious about what they buy and where they are buying it from, at the same time I hope they don’t stop there. I hope they think about doing more than just buying shoes from a company that makes them feel good about themselves. It is more than a fashion statement. It does help in a tangible way. And they actually have shoes with laces now, so I think I may buy some TOMS. [But I did not — check the update.]

But I won’t stop there.


Well, I decided to NOT to go with TOMS but with SoleRebels. And I could buy two pairs for the price of one pair of TOMS. I was wrong about them only making shoes for women. (I originally said that in my post). Amazon incorrectly labels them, you can go in and see men’s sizes as well. Also, I hear you are to buy at least a size up because they are made a bit too small. I’ll update again if that is wrong.

Thanks to Mr. Timmerman for pointing this company out.


My SoleRebels have treated me fairly. They were not kidding about ordering a size up because they definitely are a bit too small. That is basically my main complaint about the shoes. Make sure to order at LEAST a size bigger than what you normally wear.  Every pair is different.

Published by Andrew

a ragamuffin dad planting some sequoias

2 thoughts on “To TOMS or not to TOMS?

  1. SoleRebels also make shoes for dudes. You can buy them on Amazon. Shop for them by your corresponding European size. For some reason all the soleRebels sizes on Amazon are in women’s. I wouldn’t be surprised – and I hope – that TOMS moves in the direction of soleRebels, concentrating on the shoe producers.

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