Can’t buy people shoes

Informant Data:

The informant is a 19-year old American student who was born in Corona, California in 1996. Her father is Indian and her mother is African-American. She is a freshman at the University of Southern California and thus currently resides in Los Angeles, California.


Contextual Data:

I was working on homework in my dorm room when my informant walked by and told me that she remembered another folk belief that she knew (since I had asked her earlier that day if she could think of any folk belief).

When asked why she believed in this superstition and/or why this folk belief appealed to her, she said that she just followed it simply because it was a good idea to not buy other people a pair of shoes because it’s hard to know if they’ll fit well. Then, after a moment of thinking, she also proposed that since this folk belief came from her father (who is Indian), this idea that buying people shoes means they’re beneath you might relate to the Indian caste system.



“You can’t buy people shoes because it means that they’re beneath you.”



I feel that my informant was on to something when she said that this folk belief might have to do with the Indian caste system. Perhaps the act of buying people shoes suggests that they don’t have money to buy their own shoes, which would very well suggest that whoever bought the shoes believes that the people they bought the shoes for are beneath them. Furthermore, it’s likely that the poorest members of Indian society (that are the lowest on the caste system) wouldn’t likely have the means to readily buy shoes, so the act of buying shoes perhaps even further suggests that the people receiving the shoes are somehow connected to the lowest level of society.