Friday, April 3, 2015

People here judge a lot: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Shoes of Saudi Arabia photography project sneakers blog
Al-Anoud is an 18 year old student from Riyadh. She is part of Saudi Aramco's college preparatory program.
I meet Al-Anoud when she comes to Jori's interview. Unlike her friend and her sister Razan, Al-Anoud is tall and has long curly hair.

What are your favourite pair of shoes?
Well now since I'm studying, I don't have a car to go around. I walk around a lot. I like to wear sneakers.
What brand do you like?
I like Nike, I like to wear shoes two sizes bigger.
It doesn't show much! Honestly, I don't like to wear shoes.
You should wear sandals. 
They're not comfortable when you walk around! I hate it when my feet get hot.
They don't get hot in sneakers with your socks and everything? I feel like sandals would be so much better for that. 
Well I think that with the material they have now with sandals, they're plastic? It makes it hotter.
OK OK, you know your stuff.

How do your favourite shoes make you feel?
My shoes? The ones that I like? It makes me feel comfortable in them, it makes me walk with confidence. If I'm comfortable then I'm confident.

Do you wear them when you go out in public? Do you wear them when you go out and see your friends?
It depends, if it goes with my outfit then I do. If they don't, then I don't wear them.
Do you wear them when you go to the mall?
No, I feel like flats, like her.

How do you think about your shoes in relation to you outfit?
If your clothes are plain, you can make them better with a pair of shoes. If you want to show off your dress, you shouldn't wear attention grabbing shoes.
How do you think about your shoe with your abaya?
If I'm going to a restaurant or a good pace, I will try to make my shoes go well with my abaya and purse. But now that I'm studying, I don't care.

How do you think others will see you or judge you by the shoes that you wear?
People judge here a lot. But if they know that I'm busy with studying, then it doesn't matter, if it's fashionable or not. Except if I was in a party, in this situation it matters. But I don't think that people judge me if they know that I'm studying. The last time that I went shopping was three months ago.

How do you see or judge other people by their shoes?
It's very strange, I don't really notice what they wear on their feet. I don't really notice their shoes. If a girl wears heels, I would notice because she would walk differently and walk taller, but that's the only occasion I'd notice.
Lets say that you're in the mall and you see another group of girls walking, what would you look at?
Their faces.
Not their abaya or shoes?
No. If their abaya was slightly different then I would look at them. Some people wear things that they want people to see.

Do you make sue that you wear a different pair of shoes every day?
Now, not at all. When I was in Riyadh, when I'd go to my friend's house I would never wear the same shoes at that girl's house.
Have you every been outside of the country?
Do you ever feel like you have to watch yourself or censor yourself when you're here and not out of the country?
Ummm yes. Some families here are strict. If they see that I'm not respecting the culture they will think badly of me. When I go out I don't wear abaya, but here I'm respectful.
So you're dressing for them and not yourself?
Yes. But I'm not going to hide the fact that I don't wear the abaya when I go outside of the country.
Jori pipes in that nobody wears the abaya when they leave the country.
I know a girl that wore her niqab in the States!
Jori says that she's in the minority of people who do that. 

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
I'd like for people to say that I'm fashionable, but I don't care. I would like for people to say good things about me because of my shoes.

Even though Al-Anoud is young, like her friend and a couple other participants I've interviewed, she doesn't prefer to wear heels like they do. Maybe it's because of her height and because you can't really walk around in heels that are two sizes bigger than you, although I'm sure she really is more comfortable walking around in sneakers. But I also think that now that she's studying in her college preparatory program, she's becoming more serious and this shift is being reflected in her choice of shoes, which enable her to do what she needs to do and to focus on what's important in her life right now. She's preparing, mentally and physically, for university life outside of this kingdom, for a life in a place where people will judge her less by the choices she makes. 

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