If the Shoe (Name) Fits...
Walking through a warehouse-style shoe store, I couldn't help but notice how many of the shoeboxes bore women's names. The DKNY "Sophie" flat; the The Mephisto "Alison" mary jane. Why those names and not others? What kind of names do shoemakers choose most? And do certain names match certain shoes?
To find out, I turned to a vast shoe data depository: Zappos.com. I searched Zappos for shoe models named for 100 different popular girls' names. (More methodology detail below.)
The top female shoe names:
3 (tie). Chloe
6 (tie). Julia
8 (tie). Maya
And the popular names with the fewest shoe namesakes (tied at zero):
Some definite trends emerge. The popular shoe names names are visually simpler. They're shorter on average, with standard spellings and mostly straightforward pronunciations. It's definitely about visual/written impact -- the number of syllables in the spoken name doesn't correlate with shoe namesakes at all.
The chosen names are vowel heavy as well. Names ending in a vowel sound averaged 1 1/2 more shoe namesakes than names ending in a consonant sound. That might seem to point to a preference for clearly feminine names, but androgynous usage doesn't turn out to be an issue. Notice, for instance, names like Bailey and Taylor in the top 10.
I also found some differences in the kinds of names given to infants' and kids' shoe models vs. women's. Kids' shoe names are, well, cuddlier. More Bellas and Emmas, fewer Averys and Vanessas.
And now for the finding that surprised me most: they shoemakers aren't choosing very well. I can say this with confidence because there's almost no relationship between the style of name and the style of shoe. I routinely found the same name being applied to spangly flip-flops, sleek leather boots, comfort walking shoes, and leopard-print platform stilettos. For a typical example, here are the three models of shoes called Scarlett:
(Images above are from the Scarlett shoes available for purchase at Zappos.com.)
Now, I can see that there could be value in naming against type. If you're creating a comfort walking shoe, for instance, you might want to avoid comfy, old-fashioned names to keep the words "old lady shoe" far from buyers' minds. But if you're delivering a black, studded, high-heeled cross between a cowboy boot and a motorcycle boot, what the heck does a name like Emma or Amelia do for you? And why would your competitors turn around and apply that same name to an espadrille?
With their apparently random shoe-name matches, the shoemakers aren't using the names to signal ANYTHING about their products. Isn't that a waste of a good name?
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Shoe name methodology:
I looked at the the 100 most popular names for girls in the U.S., after eliminating: names that could be chosen by marketers based on non-name meanings, such as Serenity and London; the name Mary because of thousands of search results for the "mary jane" style of shoes; and the name Eva because search results included the thousands of models with EVA insoles.
Model (not brand) names of women's and girls' shoes (not slippers) were counted at Zappos. Exact spelling matches only. A shoe family (multiple colors, fabrics, etc.) counted as just one model. The name had to be used as a first name, so "Mamma Mia" didn't score for Mia, or "Madison Avenue" for Madison.
And a final note: don't try this at home. Not only was my head swimming after many hours of squinting to tell shoe models apart, but I'm now at serious risk of spending $300 on a really awesome pair of Sophia boots.