Clarks have announced plans for unisex school shoes, after they were criticised for the differences in their shoes for boys and girls.
The company has been facing backlash over the past few months after parents took to social media to point out the ‘sexist’ differences in the school shoes they offer to boys and girls.
But now Clarks have revealed they will follow a ‘gender neutral ethos’ in a statement on their website, saying that their Spring Summer 2018 range has been designed with an ‘entirely unisex approach’.
‘Clarks has a gender neutral ethos that anyone can choose any style they would like,’ the statement read.
‘Over the past few seasons, following customer feedback and market research, we have focused on creating more unisex shoes and we are looking at a number of elements of our business to promote this gender neutral ethos, both on our website and within our stores.
‘As a large global company, it is not always possible to implement all the changes we want to make as quickly as we would like. However, we are looking to move as fast as we can to ensure this ethos is reflected throughout our brand.
‘Today we have more unisex styles in our range than ever before. This means we now have a wider range of closed-in styles, school boots and GORE-TEX® styles and these changes will continue in our Spring Summer 2018 range, which has been designed with an entirely unisex approach.’
Clarks’ decision follows criticism from parents who complained they couldn’t find appropriate footwear for their daughters, while the shoes marketed for boys generally tend to offer more comfort and support.
Yet again I am dismayed by the choice of school shoes for my daughter in Clarks. I understand, of course, that anyone can choose any style – but children are not stupid, and my 7 year old daughter does not want to choose shoes from a section aggressively marketed at boys and clearly not intended for her.
In the boys’ section the shoes are sturdy, comfortable and weather proof with soles clearly designed with running and climbing in mind. In contrast, the girls’ shoes have inferior soles, are not fully covered and are not well padded at the ankle. They are not comfortable and are not suited to outdoor activities in British weather.
What messages are you giving to my daughter? That she doesn’t deserve shoes that put her on equal ‘footing’ with her male peers? That she should be satisfied with looking stylish whilst the boys are free to play and achieve in comfort? That she shouldn’t try and compete with boys when they play chase – girls’ shoes aren’t made for speed, so perhaps girls aren’t either? These messages may not be explicit, but they are there, and are insidious.
I am deeply angered by Clarks persistent discrimination. As market leaders you have an opportunity to lead the way by designing and marketing shoes for twenty-first century children. I look forward to your detailed consideration of my letter, and until I hear a satisfactory response I will be sharing my concerns with a wide audience.
NB: I urge anyone reading this that shares my concerns to like and share this post with as many people as possible – it is only under immense public pressure that companies will effect change.
Just last month, Jemma Moonie-Dalton, a mum from London, raised the issue on the company’s Facebook page.
She wrote: ‘In the boy’s section the shoes are sturdy, comfortable and weather proof with soles clearly designed with running and climbing in mind.
‘In contrast, the girls’ shoes have inferior soles, are not fully covered and are not well padded at the ankle. They are not comfortable and are not suited to outdoor activities in British weather.’
Clarks responded to the mum at the time saying they would incorporate parents’ feedback into their future ranges, which they’ve now done.[“Source-goodtoknow”]