School shoes

Late January and early February is back-to-school time in Australia and New Zealand, and the start of a new school year. So, this month I thought I would write about school shoes.

I was educated in Malaysia where all schools have a school uniform, and government schools all have the same uniform across the country. For all my school years in Malaysia, I had to wear short all-white socks with all-white canvas shoes, which were hard to keep clean. After 11 years of being forced to wear white shoes and white socks every school day, I now refuse to wear shoes or socks that are completely white.


Shih Yen in primary school, forced to wear white shoes and socks – the fate of all Malaysian school students.

This got me thinking about school shoes in other countries. The only other country where I have been a student is in New Zealand, where different schools each have their own uniform. In New Zealand, I had to wear black shoes to school. I’m guessing most schools that have a uniform will make their students wear black shoes. And there’s nothing wrong with black shoes. It’s basic, it looks smart, and it’s so much easier to keep clean than white. A few schools have brown shoes, and I think if I had to wear brown shoes everyday, I would be depressed. Brown is such a blah, nothing kind of colour.

This brings me to Southland Girls’ High School in Invercargill, a small city in the south of New Zealand. Southland Girls’ is a school with a long history, first founded in 1879. A school uniform was introduced in 1913. I find their school uniform to be very unique because red shoes are part of their uniform. Red shoes were introduced by the principal after World War II, and became uniform by 1954.

The Southland Girls' High School summer uniform with red leather shoes.

The Southland Girls’ High School summer uniform with red leather shoes.

I think red is a funky and cool colour for shoes, but I wonder if I would feel the same way if I had to wear red shoes every day. Would I feel like Dorothy from the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ wearing magic ruby slippers? Or would I feel like a clown, like Ronald McDonald in red shoes? And would it put me off wearing red shoes forever after I have left school?

The Southland Girls' High School winter uniform with red leather shoes.

The Southland Girls’ High School winter uniform with red leather shoes.


The power of a pair of shoes

Recently, I was walking in the Botanic Gardens when a young boy, maybe aged about 4 or 5, ran excitedly past me. His father, a complete stranger, told me that the boy was wearing new boots, which makes him think he can run fast and fly. I looked at the boy’s boots as he continued to run off. They were a pair of regular red gumboots, and I said ‘They look very nice.’

red gumboot

A good pair of shoes should make you feel happy, and strong as if you have super powers.

This is exactly what a good new pair of shoes should do for you. They should make you feel good and happy, and feel like you have super powers.