(LAWRENCE, Kan.) — What’s in a shoe? Surprising clues about a person’s personality, a new study found.
From photos of shoes, college students were able to accurately predict the owners’ age, gender and approximate income, as well as some subtler character quirks.
“You can get an amazing amount of information from a person in just a fraction of a second,” said Christian Crandall, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kansas and lead author of the study published in the August issue of the Journal of Research in Personality. “Nobody doubts that faces, heads and hairdos tell a lot about a person. But we thought, ‘What about the other weird parts? What about shoes?'”
Sometimes fancy, sometimes functional, shoes are the “sole” of an outfit, according to Crandall. “Clothes are a costume, and shoes are a part of that,” he said. “You’re never more dressed up than your shoes.”
Crandall and colleagues used personality tests to see which shoe-based stereotypes stood up. “Sometimes they’re accurate, sometimes they’re not,” he said.
Here’s what your shoes say about you:
People who wear high-tops tend to be standoffish and introverted, the study found. They’re also less likely to be agreeable and conscientious. But when it comes to high-tops, Crandall said the rest of the outfit can change everything. “If someone’s wearing a suit and red canvas Chuck Taylors, I know about the person’s willingness to bend the rules a bit,” he said. “Red canvas shoes are somewhat interesting, but red canvas shoes paired with a suit say much more.” One stereotype that failed to hold up is that high-top owners are less emotionally stable.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who wore stylish new shoes were likely to earn more money, the study found. “If someone’s wearing Christian Louboutins, we know they probably care about their appearance and have money to buy expensive shoes,” said Crandall. “That red sole says, ‘I spent a lot on these.'” Stereotypes that high-fashion shoe owners are less agreeable, more conscientious and more likely to be Republican failed to match up with people’s actual personalities and political views.
People who wear bright, colorful, brand name sneakers tend to be more emotionally stable, according to the study. They’re also less likely to have attachment anxiety, a personality trait marked by ambivalence and negativity. But stereotypes that people with flashy footwear are more extroverted and open to experiences didn’t hold up. “People often choose shoes to send a message, but the message isn’t necessarily true,” said Crandall. “Fun-looking shoes do not a fun person make.”
People who wear worn-in shoes tend to be more extroverted and emotionally stable, according to the study. Worn out shoes in need of repair, however, generate stereotypes that the owner is conscientious but standoffish. But those stereotypes didn’t hold up.
Despite the stereotype that Birkenstock owners are liberal, people who wear comfortable shoes have no distinctive personality traits or political views, according to the study. “We had plenty of Birkenstock owners in our study,” said Crandall, who disputes the comfort of the cork-bottomed sandals. “I have high arches,” he said.
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