Foreign shoes were given the boot at a secondary school in eastern China in an effort to cure students of their sneaker fever.
According to a February post on Hupu.com, a popular internet forum on sports, a teacher told parents in a group chat message that students would only be allowed to wear domestic shoe brands.
“If we find any student still wearing imported shoes, parents should send domestic shoes to the school for them to change into,” the teacher from privately owned Zijiang Middle School in Jinjiang, a city in Fujian province, reportedly wrote. The regulation was implemented to put a stop to the trend of “invidious comparisons of luxury goods.”
“Some students aren’t competing in their studies but instead are competing for footwear, and they ask their parents to buy expensive imported shoes,” the teacher wrote, adding that the phenomenon ran contrary to the secondary school students’ “austere and healthy image.”
Zijiang Middle School could not immediately be reached for comment by Sixth Tone, but an employee in the school’s student affairs department surnamed Ye told Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, that the new policy was just a proposal to prevent peer pressure. Ye explained that because the school’s students are not allowed to use mobile phones and have to wear uniforms, the only way they could show off was with their shoes.
Jinjiang is known as “China’s shoe capital,” as domestic shoe brands Anta, 361 Degrees, and Xtep are based in the city. While these companies sell pairs of shoes starting at around 200 yuan ($29), some Hupu users criticized the school for stereotyping domestic brands as cheap. One user mentioned a new line of footwear, Way of Wade — referring to NBA star Dwyane Wade — by domestic brand Li-Ning. Some limited-edition shoes in the collection sold for nearly 20,000 yuan online.
Others pointed out that shoes by foreign brands like Nike and Adidas are also produced by Chinese workers.
But one Hupu user who said that he was familiar with the situation wrote that there was serious footwear-related peer pressure at the school. “If Kobe or Air Jordan release new color combinations, or come out with new worldwide limited editions, they will show up in this school immediately,” he wrote. “It’s ridiculous!”
A post in a forum dedicated to the school on Baidu Tieba, a website similar to Reddit, said the school had similarly cracked down on expensive shoes in 2016.
Ye said that domestic shoes costing more than 1,000 yuan are rare, while most imported shoes are expensive. “We also don’t allow students to wear expensive domestic shoes,” he said, adding that parents have understood and supported the proposal, and that only a few students have not obeyed the new rule.
Contributions: Lin Qiqing; editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A man puts on a pair of athletic shoes at his home in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Nov. 26, 2016. VCG)