You ask me why I need Thirty-two pairs of shoes to wear You seem to ask me why I got a lot of things It's just a chick thing You oughta let it go
— No Secrets, "That's What Girls Do"
In the world of fiction, nearly all women adore shoes. Not only that, they judge people by the shoes they wear, have whole closets full of them, know every single designer, and no matter how expensive or painful to wear, they simply must have the latest styles for the season. Don't question this; this is simply one of those Women's Mysteries that men will never understand.
For some reason, whenever a woman's massive shoe collection is shown onscreen, they are always high heels like in the picture, as if a woman would never own one or more pairs of sneakers, flip-flops, ballet flats, or anything else without heels. It's probably just that high heels drive home the femininity of this trope (compare, on this point, Mars and Venus Gender Contrast). Alternately, it may be because heels tend to be more glamorous, leading to at least a few impulse buys.
There's also the fact that women's fashion is considerably more complex than men's. A man can do just fine with a single pair of dark dress shoes and a pair or two of casual sneakers. For a woman, a dress or skirt shorter then ankle length needs matching footwear or it will blatantly not match. And when that dress can be just one of a huge range of styles and colors, this demands a wide range of footwear options to go with them. And she would still need practical sneakers for exercise and mundane trips that don't require dolling up. Put simply, women's fashion needs more shoe options.
Of course plenty of women are not that interested in fashion, or otherwise dress to let them roll around in a few cute but comfy shoes most of the time. Unfortunately, any woman in fiction not interested in owning three dozen pairs of shoes is painted as a tomboy regardless of her reasoning.
Compare Distracted by the Luxury, Unlimited Wardrobe, Girls Love Stuffed Animals.
Contrast Does Not Like Shoes. It should be noted that Foot Focus, the fetishization of bare feet, is also usually female.
Is, naturally, a Double Standard, but it has become so pervasive that few try to question it.
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Anime and Manga
An odd example in Blood+. Diva, while killing a bunch of people, takes interest in one guy's sneakers and steals them after killing him.
One story manages to combine the trope with Does Not Like Shoes to comic effect. Veronica's father notices that Veronica has developed a habit of leaving the house barefoot. He stops her one day on her way out to ask her why she buys so many shoes.
In an early Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, Buffy's deadbeat dad rants about all the things he hates about living in a house full of women. I forget the whole list, but he mentions shoes twice. When Buffy points this out, he replies, "You have twice as many shoes as you need!"
Mimi Pond, in her book Secrets of the Powder Room, in the spirit of mutual understanding, lets men in on the inner workings of the female mind - much of which involves shoes. She relates a sexual fantasy involving a shoe salesman, the climax involving his giving her a 50% discount.
Underground Comics artist Leslie Sternbergh made a comic about this topic where she claimed she was worse than Imelda Marcos in this way.
Used as a plot point in Legally Blonde: When the supposed lover of the defendant makes a remark about Elle's "last season Prada shoes" (which apparently weren't last season), she realizes that he couldn't be the woman's lover because "No straight man knows designer shoes!"
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Even after forcing a woman out of an elevator at gunpoint so she can make a quick escape, Baroness is still able to take the time to compliment the woman on her shoes.
A rare male example in the movie Kinky Boots, which features a small, family-business shoe factory making female footwear styles in mens' sizes for the transgender/Drag Queen market. Also a Real Life example as it is inspired by a true story; much of the movie was shot in the actual shoe factory that inspired the movie. Word of warning — don't mistake burgundy for red.
Discussed in Free Enterprise, when one of the protagonists is about to get it on with a girl, he get offended when she brushes off his Star Trek (and sci-fi in general) obsession as just another one of those "guy things", like huge speakers and fast cars. He tries to defend that not all things women do make sense and asks her how many pairs of shoes she has. The girl replies 51. To his shocked expression, she goes to do 50. Oh, and he doesn't get to prove his point, as she eventually storms out.
Betsy Taylor, the main character of MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy The Vampire Queen series is far more interested in shoes and sales than in the fact that she recently became Queen of the Vampires.
In The Lollipop Shoes, the sequel to Chocolat, Zozie de l'Alba has a whole collection of fabulous shoes that enchant and seduce, including the eponymous Lollipop Shoes. Anouk is also shown to be susceptible to their charms.
Discussed in Love In A Nutshell where Kate comments that despite being a guy, Matt somehow has more shoes than her.
Used as part of a joking explanation in Unseen Academicals of the phrase "a lie can run around the world before the truth has its boots on": since Truth is Beauty, rather than Handsomeness, Truth must be a woman. And according to this trope, any woman in a position to choose what shoes to wear would have a lot of them to choose from.
Live Action TV
Sex And The City made Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik household names. Carrie was shown to be in deep debt because of her collection of hundreds of shoes costing several hundred bucks a pop, and in one episode Charlotte came across a shoe salesman with a foot fetish who loved her feet so much he gave her these fancy sandals for free. And many, many references to shoes being this kind of holy sacrament throughout the show's run.
Jen of The IT Crowd loves shoes enough that she is willing to ruin her feet for them.
In an episode of Leverage, Nate talks about what his team did with the "shattering amounts of money" they made bankrupting a corrupt corporation. Sophie, The Chick, "bought a frightening number of shoes."
Lampshaded when Parker (the only other woman on the team) comments "What is it about women and shoes?"
Sophie promptly replies with "There's something wrong with you." while shaking her head in confusion.
Brought up later when Parker has to play a part for a con, something Sophie usually does:
Sophie: Go to Nate's storage cupboard. You're gonna find a sexy little minidress and my emergency Jimmy Choos.
In Bones every female character is seen wearing a pair of heels in at least one scene per episode.
Half of an entire scene in the Angel episode Billy (an episode about misogyny, domestic violence and women being victimized) is devoted to Cordelia and Lilah bantering about shoes.
In a later episode, Cordelia threatens Eve thus: Get out of that chair and I will feed you those Manolo Blahniks. (pauses) Which are stunning, by the way.
Cordelia is introduced in Buffy the Vampire Slayer saying that she would kill to live in L.A. That close to that many shoes...
Amanda Pierce and, to a lesser extent DJ, in The Latest Buzz. Even Na´ve Everygirl Rebbecca Harper falls under the spell of a fabulous pair of mood-changing red shoes in the Wizard of Oz homage episode "The Wonderful Wizard of Buzz Issue".
In an episode of Hannah Montana, Miley's dad offers to buy her shoes if she will stop seeing Jake.
In That's So Raven, Raven gets a bad grade on her art project because it's a collage about shoes. Her art teacher says that's all she ever makes.
One Caroline In The City episode has Caroline out of commission due to a bad back, so Del and Richard step in to finish the strip for her. Unfortunately, Caroline can't come up with an idea to give them, so they create their own strip whose punch line is nothing more than "Women can never have enough shoes", which they think is hilarious. Caroline thanks them for helping her, although she secretly hates the strip.
The punchline for the strip Del and Richard made was "I have too many shoes!" and the point was men got the joke but women didn't. At the end of the episode, they showed Daphne from Frasier reading the strip and not understanding the punchline. When she showed it to Niles, he got it immediately and thought it was hysterical.
An episode of Coupling has Steve ranting, "Why do women have so many shoes? Do they have extra feet we don't know about?"
Burn Notice: Fiona is obsessed with shoes. In particular, in "Entry Point" she is constantly distracted by the client of the week's large collection of shoes (he specializes in knock-offs). Which is a bit ironic, given that she is quick to go barefoot as soon as she is relaxing.
Lily from How I Met Your Mother is a subversion of this trope. She loves shoes but unlike the usual examples, she only likes boots, no high heels.
A more subtle example is when Elliot loses everything she owns when someone steals the moving van she was living out of at the time. At the end of the episode, she's gushing to JD about it.
Elliot(sobbing): There was all my favourite records... my very first love letters from high school... (Wails hysterically) and my SHOOOOOOEEEEEESSSS!
One of the earliest episodes from Pimp My Ride had a girl named Nile get her car pimped, and they installed an automated shoe rack in the trunk, with several pairs of brand new shoes for her. Upon showing the new car to her friends, they reacted with great enthusiasm, as expected, but seemed even more enthusiastic about the new shoes than the pimped out car.
Sara from Zits has this trait sometimes. She once got deeply offended by Jeremy when he failed to notice her new boots (but subverting the "men never notice shoes" part of the trope, when Jeremy claims this he asks Hector what's new about Sara. "Besides the boots?") but they made up when she realized that he's more enraptured with the nuances of her face.
Parodied in The Far Side: a woman is on a date with a man wearing ridiculous clown shoes, dumping him because "I judge a man by the shoes he wears."
Rat:[to a random woman] Excuse me, miss. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Rat: I rest my case.
Woman: No wait. Those are just the brown ones...
Stand Up Comedy
One of Tim Allen's routines has him asking his wife why she needs 19 pairs of black shoes. Her response?
"You stupid f*** er! Those are strap-backs, spikes, cobbie-cuddlers, espadrilles, flats, pumps, patent leathers, spectators, argh, argh, argh!"
In one routine, Ardal O'Hanlon notes the oft-contested hypothesis that women have a higher threshold for pain than men. He theorizes that this is because no matter what is happening to her, there's always part of a woman's brain that is thinking about shoes.
In Star Munchkin, players may be faced with the Bionic Bimbo. She's a fairly formidable opponent, and will fight you... unless you give her shoes (i.e., a "footwear" item.) She will even pay you handsomely for the shoes, with 3 Treasures.
At the end of Wicked, Glinda, with visible difficulty/pain, says to Elphaba "They're just shoes!" Said shoes are the infamous ruby slippers.
Glinda also has shelves full of shoes in her dorm with Elphaba during Popular.
Subverted with Dorothy, who doesn't even want the ruby slippers anymore and would be happy to give them to Elphaba...except for the fact that they won't come off her feet, despite the fact that she's been trying to get them off for days...
Leliana of Dragon Age: Origins is obsessed with shoes. Not only are shoes the perfect gift item for her, one of her dialogs is pretty much nothing but her rambling about her obsession with shoes. The player, regardless of gender, can either tell her to shut up or start gushing about shoes as well... making this a subversion should the player be male.
Also subverted with Zevran, who gushes a fair bit about these fabulous boots, although maybe that's more to do with his leather fetish.
Also somewhat subverted in that no other woman shares her obsession, as Morrigan wants nothing to do with any of Leliana's fashion advice. One can only guess what else Marjorlaine would be talking about if she weren't hunting Leliana, but her disparaging over Leliana's state when first came to Ferelden hints that she's just as into fashion as Leliana is. Perhaps it's an Orlesian thing.
In Dumbing Of Age, Walky believes that only girls own more than one pair of shoes, and takes a great amount of male pride in only owning one pair himself. However, it turns out he's the only one who thinks like this, and is even told by macho dudebro Joe that he's being ridiculous and insecure.
This is also averted by Sierra, who Does Not Like Shoes and has been barefoot since the sixth grade (at least that's her best guess).
Perhaps because she's so short, The Nostalgia Chick has an obsession with wearing high heeled boots everywhere. Even when fighting in a frigging brawl.
The Simpsons: While not typically a big concern of Marge and Lisa's, when the family went to New York City they were both utterly hypnotized by a revolving display of blue high heels. Also lampshades their Limited Wardrobe: "I know I already own a pair of shoes, but I want these so bad!"
This was also lampshaded/spoofed in an episode where the Simpson family clears out the late Maude Flanders's closet: upon seeing Maude's three pairs of shoes, Marge exclaims, (sans irony) "Wow—someone had a fetish!"
South Park had an episode about this: "The List". Clyde's name is pushed to the top of a list of the cutest boys in school, but it's actually a conspiracy by some of the girls to get free merchandise from his father's shoe story. Even Wendy is momentarily distracted by how cute one particular pair is. We're talking about nine-year-old girls here.
Carver of The Weekenders is a rare male example and possibly an aversion as there is no hint to the trope otherwise and no character ever compares the closet full of shoes to a womanly tendency. The love actually comes from his love of sports and all of his shoes are actually athletic in nature. Still, the man loves his shoes.
Alice from Dilbert has a secret affection for shoes. She is arguably the most masculine character on the show, and is somewhat shamed by her shopping habit.
There was this one strip where Alice's cubicle is filled with shoeboxes. Dilbert comments that the money she spent could have fed a family of four for several months. The kicker? It's revealed that shoes all look exactly the same.
Phineas And Ferb: While Candace doesn't seem to care much about them, her friend Stacy seems to love shoes enough to make a gelatin mold of some pumps.
Lo from Stoked! has an obsession with flip-flops. After Fin claims that Lo has 50 pairs of flip-flops, Lo tells her not to be ridiculous. She is not some spoiled brat. She only has 36 pairs.
Pepper in Iron Man Armored Adventures invokes this trope when she goes giddy over all of the shoes in the stores. Even claiming it is an addiction.
Tony suggests Whitney is the same way when he accuses Pepper of becoming her during her shoe run.
In Johnny Test Susan has a large collection of shoes in the lab that Bling-Bling Boy steals from her. She even gives us this quote:
Susan: "Johnny, there are many thing boy will never understand, and one of them is their love of shoes. I barely understand it."
Imelda Marcos, wife of deposed Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, left thousands of pairs of shoes behind when they were thrown out of the country.
It gets even more disturbing when a few women on TV/radio/etc have commented what a horrible person Imelda Marcos was ... but ooh, look at all her shoes!
In an interview for British television, Imelda Marcos defiantly asserted that of course there were shoes in her closet, she didn't have any skeletons to hide in there.
In a similarly gruesome example, during the Romanian rebels' show trial against their former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife, Elena, in 1989, which ended in their execution, Elena's very comprehensive collection of expensive shoes was used as an evidence of the pair's illegal gathering of wealth. This is quite an understandable sticking point: sometime in The Eighties Ceauşescu decided to pay off all of Romania's foreign debt and decided to do so by exporting everything that could be exported. Owning expensive shoes while ordinary citizens queued up for food and suffered severe shortages amidst one of the worst economic collapses in the Communist bloc can come across as a mite bit insensitive to say the least...
Not the only time it's happened. When the European Union and later USA introduced sanctions and travel bans against Robert Mugabe's government after the fraud-laden violence of the 2002 elections, Mugabe's wife Grace was included in the list of people who weren't allowed to travel to Europe, with one MEP commenting that this will stop Grace Mugabe going on her shopping trips in the face of catastrophic poverty blighting the people of Zimbabwe.