Whoopsie daisy if you’re one of the thousands of people who bought shoes as a Christmas present, ‘cos Gen Z has unearthed a “shoe theory” that gifting a pair to your partner leads to breakups.
The exact origins of the shoe theory are contested, and it seems likely to have its roots in a couple of different superstitions and beliefs.
One origin is China, where the word “shoe” sounds similar to the word “evil” in Mandarin and “rough” in Cantonese according to the South China Morning Post.
This means giving a partner shoes can be a signal your relationship is ending, or bring it bad luck.
And here I was just thinking they wanted a hot new pair of kicks for summer!
TikToker Angela Chan (@angela.chaan) posted a video breaking down the shoe theory. She explained her mum told her about the theory when she was younger.
“It essentially says that if you gift someone a pair of shoes, they will eventually walk out on you,” she said.
@angela.chaan here is what i’ve been taught about The Shoes Theory growing up #theshoetheory #holidayshopping #chinesetheory #chinese #chinesetradition #chinesebelief #angelachaan #culturalappreciation #funny ♬ original sound – angela chan
Over the course of the silly season, the “shoe theory” has absolutely blown up on TikTok, with people reflecting on past relationships which didn’t work out.
TikToker Taylor (@taylor.castroo) posted a video about the theory which has scored more than 101,000 likes. Phew. Hit a nerve.
“I bought my ex the pair of shoes he really wanted for Xmas and we broke up a week later,” Taylor said in her video.
“He even put the shoes on Depop the day we broke up.”
Okay, shoe theory or no, it’s a bit of a dog move to Depop a pair of shoes the same day as your breakup.
In one viral TikTok post about the shoe theory, Megan (@megan.grace20) shared that she bought her boyfriend a pair of Lightning McQueen crocs for Christmas.
Alas, he broke up with her a month before the holidays. I’d be absolutely gutted knowing I’d missed out on a slick pair of Lightning McQueen Crocs TBH.
@megan.grace20 it’s a curse. #fyp #crocs #cars #lighteningmcqueen #foryou #christmas #shoetheory #ex ♬ original sound – <3
There’s even a cheeky link to Taylor Swift. There always is.
One TikToker pointed out that Swift’s song “Bejewelled” includes the lyrics: “Didn’t notice you walking all over my peace of mind/In the shoes I gave you as a present”.
@kksparkleprincess WALKING ALLLL OVER MY PIECE OF MIND IN THE SHOES I GAVE YOU AS A PRESENT. #theshoetheory #shoetheory #taylorswift #swiftie #swifttok #bejeweled ♬ bejeweled sped up – julianna! 💐💌
The shoe theory tag on TikTok is also absolutely full of people stressing out about the fact they bought their significant others a pair of shoes for Christmas.
While I love a bit of folklore, I do feel like most people have at some point bought their partner — current or former — a pair of shoes.
So if you recently bought your loved one a gorgeous pair of sandals or the sneakers they’d been eyeing off, I’d try not to worry too much. Unless, maybe, they’re Lightning McQueen Crocs.