The Personality of Shoes

Atinuke Adeoye


Shoes give clues to our personalities. Waiting for a workshop at my new Canadian job to start, I examined my co-workers’ footwear and thought about what my own shoes say about me.


I am Atinuke–with an accent on every syllable of my name. Proud of my heritage, dark-brown skin and Nigerian accent, I am honoured to be an immigrant. Keeping with the adaptation to my new home, I have learned to talk, walk and dress like a Canadian. However, one aspect that genuinely did not change was my footwear—knowing that what you put on your feet gives clues about your personality. 

Growing up in Nigeria, I used to sing a motivational song called “Ko Ko Ka” with my friends: 

You shall wear expensive shoes  

If you work hard at school  

You shall wear expensive shoes  

You will end up wearing cheap shoes  

If you do not work hard at school  

You will end up wearing cheap shoes 

Early on, I was taught that shoes projected wealth and power–how they looked and even how they sounded. Click-clack noises that shoes made symbolized intelligence, confidence and high-class while squelching noises personified ineptness, uncertainty and aloofness.  

Just a week into my first “real” job in Canada, I attended a professional workshop. I was excited to finally use the skills I learned in my Computer and Information Science degrees, and at the same time, nervous. 

I arrived at work, pumped-up for the workshop, wearing my black, medium-heeled slip-on “corporate” shoes and a knee-length gray pinstripe skirt suit. My notes were put together. As I walked into the room, I became worried about people’s opinions of my look. Did I overdress? Underdress? I felt all eyes were on me. I looked for familiar co-workers, and I didn’t see any. No, not even a dark-brown-skinned person like me! I quickly sat down in the nearest chair and got busy twiddling my pen, but soon my curiosity got the better of me. 

As co-workers poured into the room, I examined their shoes, pondering if they would give me clues about these people. 

Someone walked in wearing high-heeled boots, with mesh tights and a mini-skirt. I was appalled! In Nigeria, most workplaces have a dress code, even if unwritten, and it is understood and adhered to. Only people of “questionable character” would dress like that. Or so I thought. 

I looked down at my slip-ons and wondered which of my personality traits they depicted. If I could be any, what kind of shoes did I want to be? 

Did I want to be shiny pumps, beautiful and elegant? Stilettos–ambitious, without any care for others? Or Mary Janes, all closed-up, but practical and classical nonetheless? Would I be as unsettled as tap shoes? Would I be suited for a ballroom or a track field or hot desert sand? 

I didn’t want to be too specialized, like figure skates or rollerblades. I would have rather been riding boots, made for a specific purpose but used for all purposes. I would have liked a stylish name and would not want to be called loafers like ne’er-do-wells, but rather Oxfords, prim and proper, implying intelligence. Not wellies. They sound like wellies, but Gucci, like gushing. 

Sitting there with my pen poised and my notebook open, I knew for sure wherever I found myself, I would thrive. Because I had the wisdom of a weathered old shoe, I had experienced diverse cultures and learned from them all.

Today I’m boots. Yes! I am boots! Courageous, adventurous, well-travelled, able to face and deal with muddy situations, charging through all things murky and dark to triumph in the light. 

I am a Canadian, proud of my heritage, with dark-brown skin and a Nigerian accent. 

I am Atinuke, with an accent on every syllable of my name.

ATINUKE ADEOYE is a Canadian of African descent. She immigrated with her family to Dartmouth in April 2005. She is an avid reader and loves to tell stories using numbers.

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