It’s 2007. I’m in high school. The hallways are filled with the sounds of $1 Old Navy flip-flops slapping vinyl floors and slapping bare heels as sandaled students shuffle to class.
But if you ask Andrea Michelle, an English teacher at a high school in California, the scene in today’s halls is a little different. Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2012, now occupy high schools nationwide and their feet are decidedly covered.
Today, “a lot of kids wouldn’t wear their mules without socks,” said Michelle, a millennial (born 1981-1996). “It was confusing for me because I live in San Diego County. I grew up wearing either Rainbow sandals or Uggs.” Gen Z has also taken to pairing chunky trainers with everything, tucking socks under dressy sandals — or, perhaps even scarier for millennials, carrying Crocs with them socks. “That was super weird [my students] “I dressed like my dad on a fall day,” Michelle said.
Not only do they often prefer not to show their own feet, but they may nudge others who do. Michelle, used to baring her feet in sandals, was harassed by her high school students over her choice of clothes. “I usually hear, ‘Miss, the dogs are barking!’ or ‘Miss – free?! Are you just giving out these free foot pics?’” she recalled. She has even witnessed students barking at her feet.
On TikTok, the hashtag is “dog out“ – a term coined by Gen Z to describe visible toes – has inspired countless videos with millions of views. TikToker posts clips of “dog attacks‘ (when people are touched against their will by another person’s bare feet) or when people embarrass their ‘dogs’ in public.
It is not uncommon for the depiction of a particular part of the body to come into fashion and fall out of fashion again. Crop Tops (and with it the stomachs) have come and gone, the waists of jeans have risen and fallen (to hide or expose the hips), Shorts have gotten shorter and longer again (exposing and hiding thighs and even buttocks).
But something is happening with Gen Z’s hidden feet that goes beyond mere aesthetics. Michelle walking by @EducatorAndrea on TikTok and has more than 215,000 followers there posted about the phenomenon. In response, she received “a flood of feedback” from Gen Z, attributing the origin of the trend to the popularity and online presence of foot fetishes.
“For the most part, these kids had unrestricted access to the internet, where foot fetishes were being researched,” she explained. With access to “sites like [FeetFinder] And when they’re asked for pictures of their feet online, they have a hard time separating other people’s fetishes from the sight of their feet.”
Raised on the internet, Gen Z have had access to anything, anywhere, anytime, their entire lives. And they’re uniquely aware of who’s constantly watching them — and how they’re dressed — online and out in the real world.
“When I go out in public, I try not to wear open-toe shoes. I have a feeling people will look at my dogs,” said Analisa Prowse, an 18-year-old audio engineer from Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “I don’t need that kind of attention… The online fetishization of feet [is] It’s so casual and normal now that it scares me.”
The possibility of attracting unwanted attention is very real. Annabel Smitha Gen Z lifestyle and fashion influencer with 119,000 Instagram followers, has been getting “creepy DMs” from followers who are “begging for feet.” [pictures].” When Smit — who said she tries not to let such comments sway her style choices — posts a photo from her summer vacation wearing sandals, “I get a bunch of creepy requests in my DMs, another one “Nice sexy feet,” she said. “I think pictures of sandy beaches in flip flops or open sandals are perhaps the most provocative.”
And as part of a generation uniquely aware of how to monetize their online presence, Smit understands that someone would not donate what they could exchange. “Why show them for free when we can sell foot pics and make some money?” she said.
In fact, a common criticism in response to bare feet being seen on social media or in the wild is, “no free feet.” The implication is that the person with their feet exposed is forgoing the opportunity to benefit from a monetizable good: the sight of their feet.
This happens on sites like FeetFinder, where users can buy and sell custom foot photos or videos. Foot care is also worthwhile OnlyFansan Internet content subscription service used primarily for pornography.
However, if you’re a socialite, your feet are free to win wikiFeeta fetish website dedicated to curating snaps of “celebrities’ arch(es), sole(s) or toe(s) without opaque shoes and socks,” according to the Website Rules. Sophie Strauss, a stylist and former professional musician, googled herself one day and discovered that someone – she has no idea who – had created something a wikiFeet page with every publicly available photo that allowed even the slightest glimpse of their feet.
Strauss, a millennial, was mostly confused. “Many of the selected images [my] Otherwise, wikiFeet weren’t particularly ‘sexy’ in a more normative sense,” she explained. “My wedding photos are there and one of mine is pregnant.” Adding to her confusion: “I definitely don’t care [my feet]. I have pretty gnarled calluses.”
She saw the humor in the situation. “It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or offended at all,” Strauss said. “But I was also well into my 20s and by that point I was very comfortable with myself, my sexuality, and the realities of the internet … I just wish I could have made a hell of a lot of money off my feet if I only knew.” they’re a hot commodity!” she joked.
Still, it’s easy to imagine how someone else — especially someone younger who is redefining their self-esteem — could feel like their privacy has been invaded when a stranger curates a feed of photos that just happen to show their feet. Even among private individuals and “ordinary people” whose feet are not allowed to appear on such sites without permission, it can raise awareness that a casual follower could target an innocent Instagram photo of a group of friends, staring at their sandal-clad feet . Or staring at her toes in the street.
LeMeita Smith, Ph.D. He is Director of Clinical Services at United Health Services and Counselor in Psychology tarotoohas primarily advised members of Generation Z over the past 11 years.
“I’ve met Gen Z customers who have expressed concerns about their appearance and privacy online,” she said. “Young people today are very aware of the potential for exploitation and objectification. The fear of having her feet fetishized and the resulting reluctance to show her bare feet could be traced to her desire to protect her personal boundaries and maintain a sense of control over how she is perceived.”
Crocodiles with socks are more than an ironic, deliberately ugly-cool choice of style. They are a “back” sign.
For others, the problem is not so profound. There are many Gen Z people who don’t mind baring their toes, or if they do, it’s purely for practical reasons. “My feet are usually covered because they get cold very quickly, but I wouldn’t show them a problem,” said Katie Schaefer, a freshman student who lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “It’s more confidence than anything.”
For Schaefer, socks with sandals are a “go-to” look, “but in the summer we’re always barefoot, so that’s pretty normal.” Still, she doesn’t want to see “close-up” foot photos of anyone online: “If it’s like a If it’s a full body shot and the feet aren’t the focus, I don’t even realize it.” [the feet].”
Similarly, Smit motivates hygiene to cover her feet more than the “scary” messages she receives. “The [New York City] “Streets can be pretty dirty and it’s not fun to step on them when you go clubbing,” she explained. “Plus, pedicures cost a fortune here.”
Even if feet are not offensive per se, they are often perceived as inglorious. In her work as “Stylist for normal peoplesays Strauss, she sees the greatest aversion to bare feet among her bridal clients, who nowadays prefer closed-toe shoes rather than formal sandals. “They don’t like the idea of their feet being in the wedding photos that they’ll be looking at for years to come,” she said, noting that most of her bridal clients are millennials.
I understand. When I was recently shopping for shoes for my upcoming wedding (while also writing this article), I decided to trade a millennial, a pair of formal open-toe sandals I bought for the event, in favor of closed-toe pumps. It’s not that I suddenly became unaware of my feet or felt the need to keep up with trends. Rather, my deep immersion into the issue of visible feet (something I’d never really paid much attention to) made me reflect on the fact that toes are a uniquely – I’d like to say oddly shaped – part of the body that might disrupt the elegance of a toe Wedding photo when they accidentally peeked out from under a dress.
While I can’t imagine discarding my sandals or suddenly wearing them with socks, it now feels like a choice to bare my feet at all.
For her part, Michelle “invested in some Air Force 1s because I was tired of making weird comments.” Still, she admires her students’ bravery: “They have a great vibe and I’m there for it even if I don’t show myself anymore can.”