Three kids stand in front of the large maple tree with its widespread tangle of branches. Heads tipped back, they try to spot the top. The sunlight dazzles them; a sparrow looks back inquisitively from on high. What are these decisive-looking children up to?
One of them takes a small step forward. A hand looks for a place to grab hold of the lowest sturdy branch, a foot presses against the trunk - and just like that the child goes up in the air.
The two other children follow after a short gap, each reaching the treetop at their own speed. Arriving at the top they look at each other, proud and happy.
This adventure has helped them grow. And the scraped knees and torn clothes do nothing to change that.
The Fox looks out of his den, nodding to the children in approval. That’s how it should be for little wildlings: the world must be discovered, hurdles overcome and adventures experienced.
Up to this point you can’t tell whether the children are boys or girls. All children have the same twinkle in their eyes; they have dirty hands and unkempt hair; they enjoy being active and the fact that they’ve overcome the fear of failure. So why would anyone ask about gender?
Wild and free instead of girl or boy
A very good question. And why does that play a role for us here at Wildling Shoes? Well none of us is completely free of the notion of what it means to be a girl or a boy, and what kind of behaviour it involves.
If a girl is forbidden to climb with the instruction, “Better not do that. Your pretty clothes will get all dirty!” or a boy who's crying after falling from a branch gets told not to “cry like a girl” - then in our view that's taking a great deal away from our kids:
the sparkle in their eyes after such an adventure, or the feeling of being safe and secure even in difficult situations. We’re depriving our children of the opportunity to feel and experience their own needs and boundaries, getting to know themselves in all their facets.
It’s true that clothing, including shoes, in online shops is mostly divided into “Women’s” and “Men’s”, or boys and girls.
It's a categorisation that's very common in the fashion sector, but it doesn’t fit Wildling at all. Still we occasionally get the question: “Do you also do girls’ shoes?”
Well it’s like this: We do barefoot shoes. For robbers’ daughters and sons of the wilderness, for large and small people. For all the feet out there that are running, hopping, jumping, walking and hiking.
No pair of feet is exactly like another, and yet feet do have much in common. They need room to move. When going barefoot isn't an option, we want our Wildlings to contribute to helping all wild paws to run free.
Are Men's and Women's feet different?
Our society considers small, narrow feet to be more feminine. Which doesn't mean that women's feet in general are small and narrow. But even when still growing they are often squeezed into shoes that are too small and too narrow. Hallux valgus or weakened foot muscles are health problems that can occur as a result. So there isn't a “typical” woman's or man’s foot, but there are certainly foot problems that later become so-called “typical” women’s foot conditions.
But if there isn't such as a thing as THE girl’s or boy’s foot (and the same applies for the grown-up equivalents) - what are girls’ or boys’ shoes supposed to be?
We at Wildling want to pack freedom into a pair of shoes - that’s how we’ve formulated our mission. And we don't want to deny anyone the freedom of choice. Personal taste is as varied as pairs of feet. What one person likes might not be the other's cup of tea.
When it comes to the fit there’s no alternative for us anyway - as long as there’s no possibility to tailor the shoes straight on to your paws, the anatomical form with the broad toe box is the best way to provide all feet with protection and room to move. Wide and narrow feet come in all sizes.
And the colours? They, too, are there for everyone! Yes, this summer we’ve got the Pheasant, with its beautiful dusky pink plumage. And the Dove in light blue. Is pink a “girls’ colour”? Blue a “boys’ colour”? Who makes the rules for that then? Less than 100 years ago, pink was the colour for boys. Bright red was a strong signal colour, standing for blood and battle. As a consequence, the little red, in other words pink, was considered a fitting colour for boys. The Virgin Mary is often depicted in a blue cloak and that's why, so they say, light blue was the perfect colour for little girls.
Later, blue became a “masculine” colour, perhaps because of military uniforms, perhaps due to the jeans trend. Whatever the reason, it shows that the colour associations were not naturally occurring, but were thought up by us humans. And therefore they can also be changed by us.
Next time you see a tree that’s asking to be climbed, simply look for a place to grab hold, press your foot against the trunk and get climbing. You're already wearing the right shoes!
Run wild, whether boy or girl!
Anna, Ran & Team Wildling