Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wedges and tight abayas: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project Al-Khobar Razan blog
Razan is a 16 year old student from Al-Khobar.
Razan tagged along with her sister Jori, who was around when I interviewed Reem. Unfortunately we didn't have time for me to ask her questions then, so we met up at a later time at the same coffee shop.
What are you favourite pair of shoes?
Because they're comfortable, you can wear them everywhere except for special occasions, parties.
Everyone says weddings! Me, I've only been to one wedding in my life.
In Saudi Arabia?
No, in general!
Yeah we have them all the time.

How do they make you feel?
They make me feel comfortable and stylish. Even the flats we have are stylish.
Do you wear designer shoes?
I used to have Prada, but you know, it gets like...
Yeah, it gets dirty quickly. You don't want to wear them if they're going to get like that.
You know the first girl I interviewed had Dior flats...
The new Dior's are so bad.
I don't know anything about designer shoes! I'm very simple.

Do you wear your flats when you go hang out with your friends?
What about when you go to the mall?
When I go to the mall I don't wear my flats. I wear my sneakers, I don't know why.
Yeah because you don't want to deal with being uncomfortable or your posture or whether it's appropriate or not. 

I want you to think about the many different kinds of shoes you have an the roles you assign them. For instance, I assign these shoes, my sandals, as my everyday shoes. 
I wear sneakers and Nikes to school and everyday. If I come here to the cafe, I wear flats and on the weekends I wear wedges. But I don't wear tight abayas when I wear wedges. Like this abaya, I don't wear wedges. It doesn't look right.
Interesting, I would never know this kind of stuff. So you have tight abayas?
Yeah I guess? She laughs. 

How do you think about your shoes in relation to your outfit?
They're very important, the colour, everything.
How do you think about them with your abaya?
It's kind of hard. Like when I choose one, I wear them everyday.

How do you think other people will see you or judge you by the shoes you wear?
I don't know, when I come here there's a lot of people, I wear good shoes, a nice abaya. But when I go to the mall I don't care.

How do you judge other women by the shoes that they wear?
I don't know.
Let's say a girl wore wedges with a tight abaya...
I won't judge. Well, I just won't say anything.
OK so you judge, but just in your head.
She laughs. Yeah.

Do you make sure that you wear a different pair of shoes every time you go out?
Yeah I do, I like changing.
Yeah you don't want to get bored.

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
I want people to look at me, to think that I'm stylish.
So do you care what people think about you?
I kind of do, why would somebody say something bad about me? I can take care of myself.

I have been surprised by the amount of girls that wear sneakers on a daily basis. I suppose now that there are new (or who knows, they may have been around for a while, but I just don't notice it) styles that look less sporty and are more for everyday use, girls have started wearing them because of their comfort and wearability. I noticed that Razan, like the girls her age that I've interviewed before, likes to wear shoes that made her appear taller. I also noticed that like me, she wears less fashionable shoes to the mall. I had this idea in my head that the mall would be a place for girls to show off for each other and to socialize, but it seems like most of the women I've interviewed see the mall as a place where they have to go to shop and do errands. This is reflected in their footwear, which is practical and allows them to do what they need to do comfortably. It seems that women socialize either in the compound at the cafe, or in each other's homes. I suppose I had held my previous assumption due to my own bias. It seems self evident in a conservative country such as this that women would prefer to socialize privately. It just goes to show how far your own, and I mean culturally, way of thinking affects how you think others live their lives.

I also appreciated Razan's honesty, saying that she did care what people thought of her. I mean we all do to an extent and we tend to care less as we get older, but there's nothing like peer pressure than when we're in high school. Of course it is important to care about what our friends, family, and teachers think, as they usually want what's best for us. The important thing is to make sure that what we care about the opinion that we have of ourselves more than the opinions that others have of us. But Saudi girls tend to have a lot of confidence, so I'm not worried.

I previously misnamed this post with Jori's name and photo. I regret the error. Her interview will be posted shortly.

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