TOMS Steps in Shit


by James Killough

I’m not a chick, and as I age I would make an increasingly frightening one, so I’ve only ever been marginally aware of TOMS shoes.  I believe the one time I came into contact with them I was hesitating between buying a pair of those or a handbag made of recycled materials for my mother as a house present.  I was almost going to eat the TOMS gimmick—buy one pair, and another pair is gifted to a poor child somewhere poorer than where I sit right now—but the recycled handbag won over as having the better narrative, as well as the more stylish design. And there was no fucking way I was paying $44 for those cheap-assed espadrille-looking things, which, as it turns out, really cost less than $5 to make.

TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie saving soles and spreading the anti-gay word.

Plus, Mum really loved the handbag.  It kept my stock at her country house slightly above junk status for a good few weeks.

I’ve spent too long in India to be swayed by the TOMS marketing campaign, which basically guilts you into buying their crap merchandise for whatever thousands of percent mark-up $44 is from $5.  Their catalogue is rife with images of dire poverty, saying “Buy these shoes and save the world, one pair at a time.”  In India, a meal and work are more highly prized than a pair of shoes, but then again, it’s a barefoot culture.  And a floor-oriented one, too.  A meal and work are more highly prized than a bed, so any mattress company thinking to make a buck off people not having a proper place to sleep had better think twice before exploiting the children of the Mother of All Third World Countries.

I’m not sure where I was going with that tangent, so let me rein this back in.

"Gee, thanks for the ugly shitty shoes. Can I have that cheeseburger now?"

According to the LA Weekly, the founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, has yanked the veil away from bleeding-heart eyes by linking himself with evangelical, anti-gay Christians, specifically with the noxious Focus on the Family.  Suddenly, womyn everywhere are choking on their granola, looking at their feet and realizing they bought the story hook, line and stinker: they’re wearing woven straw covered with a bit of canvas that were probably made for $3.50, not even 5, according to

Would those $44 have gone to better use buying a couple of pairs of last season’s heels on clearance at DSW, which at least would have made your calves look less lesbian chunky and might have gotten you laid?  Hell, yeah!

With a double dip recession coming up, let's take a moment here to reflect on an iconic image from the American Great Depression. She was 32.

TOMS shoes are made in China, not anywhere near where Blake could have given the parents of any child he bestows his fashion-challenged shoes upon a job, which in itself is enough hypocrisy for anyone to look at the made-in label and say, Hey, wait a minute, doesn’t China own the US?…  and drop the shoes and grab the family stock-raising handbag made from 100% recycled materials by Lesbotrons in Williamsburg.

So, let’s do the TOMS math.  You buy a pair of shitty espadrilles for $44 (which you could probably still get in some Chinatown somewhere for $10, a reasonable mark-up) and TOMS gives a poor child, whose image has probably already been exploited for free in the catalogue, another pair worth $3.50.  You add in Blake’s marketing costs, his stores (the build-outs for which are nominal), staff and other operating expenses, and you’re looking at maybe $11 per pair of shoes.  And he’s just “given away” the millionth pair.

You don't need Tuttle to tell you these shouldn't be worn outside the house, and even then only in striped pajamas with a frayed paisley bathrobe. Oh, fuck it, just wear flip flops.

Some child in a hovel in Bolivia is throwing a pair of TOMS shoes at her mother right now, screaming, “What does this shithole look like to you, the Hamptons?  I don’t want another pair of fucking beach shoes.  I want to eat meat!”

What tickles my gander the most is that Blake Mycoskie calls himself “Shoegiver In Chief” as his title at the company.  Bwahahahaha.  The guy is not just an evil evangelical Christian who thinks he’s a do-gooder, he’s a dork, too, a supreme douche-in-chief.  Listen, Blake, I don’t mind that you dance with the devil in a halo, but don’t be delusional about it.  Just come out and say “I hate fags, my God hates fags, please still buy my shoes.” Marcus “Marcia” Bachmann will be the first to scream “fabulous!”

Being creepy and using a hot social issue to sell tatty merchandise isn’t new.  Look at American Apparel.  Serial sexual harasser and chronic masturbator Dov Charney, a Canadian, built a one-time empire on the back of American jingoism, marketing his crap products with the notion that they were somehow not crap because they were made in sweatshops in Downtown LA rather than in sweatshops abroad, where they don’t need work, either.  (We know the protectionist slogan well: Qu’ils mangent des chaussures, “let them eat shoes.”)

Dov Charney has several sexual harassment lawsuits pending. But, of course, "Those bitches are all out to get me." Who could resist such glamour, such pulchritude?

“I bought one pair of American Apparel jeans, and I’ve never worn them, not once,” Tuttle said on a hike yesterday, an excursion up the long way of Runyon Canyon which served as a reminder of how out of shape I’ve become cardio-wise since I stopped biking everywhere and started driving a supremely rusted 1990 Buick Park Avenue, which I’ve dubbed “Mother,” for obvious reasons.

I’ve never bought anything for myself from American Apparel because I could see it was junk the moment I walked in.  They can’t even make a decent t-shirt, and one thing you would expect of an American clothing company, even one headed by a masturbating Canadian sex fiend, is that it can make a decent t-shirt.  The colors were also weird.

"Mother." The irony of driving her around Beverly Hills makes me weep with pleasure.

Okay, I confess.  When American Apparel first started, I did buy a sort of rust-colored chenille sweatshirt for my former partner Jonathan, which I think he wore either just to please me or because the material was handy in thwarting chronic London damp, in a pajama-ish way. Yes, I was lured by the marketing, by the all-American narrative, by the overweight Chicana beaming at a sewing machine in the initial ads, before Charney’s true nature took over and he got pervy with his products.

I bought it because it was one of those moments when I was coming out of my last meeting of a trip and thinking, Right, I’ve done everything… if I get on the 101 by 1:15, I can drop off the car at Enterprise by 1:45… shuttle to the terminal takes 15 minutes… what have I forgotten?  Present for Jonathan!  Fuck!  At which point I dashed down Hollywood Boulevard into American Apparel and bought the least offensive thing there: a rust chenille sweatshirt.  This is saying volumes about the cack they make.

Once Charney stopped exploiting his own workers for his ad campaigns, he slid further into hipsterville: past grungy, pasty kids who looked like they’d been busted by the photographer sleeping off a meth & junk bender, sliding deep into old Guess? Jeans territory until he fell out the other side into this recent charmer:

That muff don't feel like chenille, neither. Bet she can scrub burnt oatmeal off the bottom of a cast-iron pot with it.

The positive news is American Apparel stock is up to almost ninety-nine cents after Charney bought back a million and a half shares.  Which still makes him the richest man in my neighborhood, apparently.  Except out of all the houses he could have owned, he bought this concrete bunker eyesore on a hill:

Garbutt House has no fireplaces because the guy who originally built it wasn't just afraid of earthquakes. Best views of LA, though. Something to "woo" the employees with.

Philanthropy and social causes should never be used to market any sort of product, unless it is strictly marketing the charity it serves.  I’m waiting for Blake to get honest with it, to make that handbag out of recycled rhetoric and evangelical family “values.”  We’ll call it the Sleazebag.

Comments: 13

  • oldancestor August 9, 20115:33 pm

    Jeez, JK. You have gone militant. I haven’t seen you this fired up since the Blais era.

    So when you buy a pair of those shoes, somebody in a third world country gets a pair? Good god, haven’t they suffered enough already? Why are there so many ugly shoes in the world? Those are as ugly as crocs, almost. I shop at kohls, and even I know when footwear is THAT ugly.

    Not too focus too heavily on the pics, but I wish you would have told me I’m writing for a blog run by a homeless guy. Please tell me you don’t sleep in the Buick too. But hey, at least the wheel covers are intact (on the side I can see, that is). If you want to feel posh, come out to NJ and we’ll hit the town in my Honda Civic EX-L. You know what the “L” is for, right? Leather, baby. They have that in Hollywood? I didn’t think so. One more comment about the car: It’s not obvious to me why you call it “mother.” That word means two things to me: Norman Bates or the ship’s computer from Alien. Is it not a movie reference? Are there such things as references that don’t tie into a movie somehow? Not in my world.

    I also want you to know that I am offended by your hetero bashing. How do you know the girl on the floor has coarse pubic hair? Maybe she combs and conditions it. Anyway, the tone of your comment was very anti-muff. I have spent a lot of time, effort, and money on booze and meaningless compliments just so I can gain access to muff, and you talk about it like it’s second class goods. You don’t see me penis bashing (ouch!) in my stories.

  • Pure Film Creative August 9, 20115:43 pm

    Yeah, I’m getting my gay Lenny Bruce on, baby. My pink Bill Hicks. My George Carlin in a jockstrap.

    The Buick is called “Mother” because it’s old and rusty and is a Park Avenue, like my real mother. But it’s gorgeous, don’t you go bashing my Mom. The seats are leather, too. Just, well, very worn leather.

    It’s obvious that muff is Brillo or it wouldn’t have poked through quite like that. It’s vagina armata. I shall make further reference to vag in today’s post. Nothing to do with you, completely coincidental.

    • oldancestor August 9, 20116:10 pm

      I don’t make you think of vagina? I’m failing.

      I forgot to say before…It’s obvious you are not a chick, and you would have always made a frightening one.

  • James Tuttle August 9, 20119:29 pm

    You’ll be thrilled to know, I’m sure, that the rusted shell of a Buick that Killough is driving actually has a Passenger Climate Control system so that the passenger can set the temperature to their own comfort level. Isn’t that brilliant?
    I know this because I was a passenger in the car, which brings me to my next observation. It also has what is commonly referred to as an “Oh shit” handle above the passenger window that you can grab onto when things get a little dicey. I know this because I have grabbed it several times as Killough swerved to miss oncoming or parked cars.
    What I REALLY came out to say was that the Blake guy with the curly hair and ugly shoes backpedalled so fast from Focus on the Family when word got out that he spoke at their event that it made me feel good that some people are, at least, pretending not to be homophobic bigots.
    Oh, and the American Apparel guy is just wrong. Haven’t I told you people about handlebar mustaches? Jeez.

    • Pure Film Creative August 9, 201110:29 pm

      Aye, but you do make me laugh, Tuttle. Blake is still an evangelical Christian, though, and while I’m sure he’s not a homophobe and was just selling shoes to the Bible Belt, I think the whole Shoegiver in chief bit is over-the-top. Makes me want to smack him.

      I am proudly the very worst driver in the world; I’m a native New Yorker, after all. We only do Oh, Shit!

  • Steff August 12, 201111:44 am

    Wow. This post makes me want to throw the pair of TOMS I bought eons ago (and only wore once) through the window of the nearest American Apparel. Although really they’d just bounce back and hit me in the face.

    • Pure Film Creative August 12, 20111:01 pm

      If you give them to you local charity, preferably Out of the Closet, they won’t bounce back.

      Thanks for reading,

      — Jmaes

  • lg August 19, 201112:00 pm

    Here was Tom’s response to the outing about FoF.

    “The One for One movement is fueled by our passionate and dedicated fans who are a crucial piece in helping us provide new shoes to children in need, and save or restore vision for others.

    “Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret. In the last 18 months we have presented at over 70 different engagements and we do our best to make sure we choose our engagements wisely, on this one we chose poorly.

    Furthermore, contrary to what has been reported, Focus on the Family is not a TOMS giving partner.

    So there is no misunderstanding created by this mistake, let me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all. That belief is a core value of the
    company and of which we are most proud.”

    • Pure Film Creative August 19, 20111:39 pm

      Thanks for cutting and pasting Tom’s statement, or is this Blake’s statement? If you had taken the time to read the article, it’s about much more than the beliefs of a bunch of evil evangelicals. If we spent all of our time decrying their egregious beliefs and actions, we wouldn’t have any fun, and we aspire to fluff here at PFC, even if it seems to elude us sometimes. Like when we stumble on TOMS and your shenanigans, and we are obliged to launch scuds in your general direction.

      The point of my article is you should not be exploiting poverty to sell shoes. And the tone of Tom’s/Blake’s statement just makes it clear he’s exactly the kind of sanctimonious tool I pegged him to be.

      — James

  • Pam January 24, 201211:27 pm

    HA! I loved this. I haven’t bought a pair of TOMS ever despite their ubiquitous presence among the hip in Los Feliz and surrounding areas in LA. They remind me of the shoes all the Chinese kids had and wore that cost about 10 cents there.

    • Pure Film Creative January 24, 201211:39 pm

      Yeah, I saw a tweet of his recently that was just so sanctimonious I coulda puked. Really needs to get over himself. Thanks for reading!

      — James

  • Pam January 24, 201211:45 pm

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