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Blog/Brand Bible/TOMS Shoes History
The history of TOMS shoes is one of sheer inspiration. On his second visit to the South American country of Argentina in 2006, entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie noticed that many children in the country’s capital of Buenos Aires were playing in bare feet. Upon his return to the US, his research revealed that the inability to afford shoes in developing countries was a pervasive issue, affecting everything from children’s ability to attend school to health.
Determined to do something to help combat the problem, Mycoskie sought a solution from the source. He settled upon a for-profit business model that would contribute a pair of shoes to a family in need for every pair they sold. The shoe style of choice was the classic espadrille (also known as an alpargata), popular in Argentina, and Mycoskie tasked manufacturers from the country to produce the first batch.
After a story ran in a major news outlet detailing TOMS’ mission - as well as the cool, chic summer style of their shoes - the company was inundated with orders, and having sold its first pair in May 2006, by October they had hit 10,000 pairs, not only establishing the brand as one of the most-sought after in the fashion world, but also providing the same number of shoes to impoverished families in Argentina.
Almost a decade later, and TOMS rise has been meteoric. The espadrille - known as the TOMS Classic - remains their biggest selling item and has been riffed upon to create several sibling styles, such as the University Classic and the Avalon Sneaker. TOMS have also branched out into various other items, and have begun corresponding charitable initiatives, such as sponsoring operations to help restore sight with every pair of eyewear they sell.
In 2014, half of the company was sold to investment firm Bain Capital, as Mycoskie sought to take the company’s charitable giving to the next level. The next goal of the company is to help make the countries that their products are sent to self-sustaining through the creation of jobs; TOMS expects to have one-third of all their shoes produced in developing nations that they donate too in the near future.