Clarks shoes are an extremely respectable brand. They provide comfort, style, and long-lasting footwear for people of all ages.
However, the company landed itself in hot water when the name of one of their products in the UK went completely viral online. After some parents did more digging into the product, they found out it wasn't just the name that was the problem.
Clarks offered a boys shoe on their website called Leader, which boasted sturdiness, comfort, weatherproofing, and durable soles made for activity. On the inside, there were soccer balls printed on the insole.
The problem arose when parents went to search for the girl-equivalent version of the shoe. Hoping to find something in similar fashion and use, they were stunned to find the "Dolly Babe."
This shoe is not weatherproof, not comfortable, not made for activities, and has pink hearts inside it. The worst part, arguably, is the name.
"To call a pair of shoes for a girl Dolly Babe is dreadful. It’s wrong in all sorts of ways … this is just really silly," said Scottish politician Jacob Rees-Mogg.
“The idea that we should be bringing up a generation of boys to aspire to become leaders while the best hope for girls is to be Dolly Babes is just grim," added Greenwich Councillor Miranda Williams.
Clarks responded to the public outcry, after a post on their Facebook page saw over 17,000 shares.
One mom took to Facebook to go after Clarks, claiming she was "heartbroken" to see the discrepancy between shoes.
Yet again I am dismayed by the choice of school shoes for my daughter in Clarks. I understand, of course, that anyone can choose any style – but children are not stupid, and my 7 year old daughter does not want to choose shoes from a section aggressively marketed at boys and clearly not intended for her.
In the boys’ section the shoes are sturdy, comfortable and weather proof with soles clearly designed with running and climbing in mind. In contrast, the girls’ shoes have inferior soles, are not fully covered and are not well padded at the ankle. They are not comfortable and are not suited to outdoor activities in British weather.
What messages are you giving to my daughter? That she doesn’t deserve shoes that put her on equal ‘footing’ with her male peers? That she should be satisfied with looking stylish whilst the boys are free to play and achieve in comfort? That she shouldn’t try and compete with boys when they play chase – girls’ shoes aren’t made for speed, so perhaps girls aren’t either? These messages may not be explicit, but they are there, and are insidious.
I am deeply angered by Clarks persistent discrimination. As market leaders you have an opportunity to lead the way by designing and marketing shoes for twenty-first century children. I look forward to your detailed consideration of my letter, and until I hear a satisfactory response I will be sharing my concerns with a wide audience.
NB: I urge anyone reading this that shares my concerns to like and share this post with as many people as possible – it is only under immense public pressure that companies will effect change."
As for Clarks, the company offered a fairly insignificant response. No apology was issued, but they said they were removing the shoes from the store and online, claiming it was "an old and discontinued line."
Do you think these parents were over-reacting about Clarks? Or did they have a right to be upset of the "Dolly Babe" line? Let us know.