Shreyas Kulkarni

Why did Neeman’s decide to ditch modelesque feet from its images?

The answer lies in the eye of the beholder.

The pursuit of perfection is a slippery slope. On one hand, it gives a person an impossible goal to achieve so any action towards it is considered progress and for some, victory.

On the other hand, there is the risk of overreach which can render the best of people helpless, and morose, and sometimes lead to dangerous consequences.

Media has forever fed consumers an incessant diet of how the human form should appear. It has, over the decades, engineered a toxic rise of appearance insecurity.

Neeman’s, an Indian footwear company, has decided to shake this status quo. Founder Taran Chhabra, through the brand’s social media handles, said they will “ditch and cut out imagery that doesn’t represent your feet in its natural form i.e real and authentic!”

All the feet, in photographs from footwear brands, look picture-perfect says Saheb Sahani, Neeman’s head of social media and storytelling. “The brand (Neeman's) had, over the years, come to accept such imagery as the norm.”

He says this thought is reflected in the briefs the footwear brand sent to its partners be it agencies or photographers. It was to employ the services of feet models with great feet shape.

When they went to shoots, Sahani says models were expected to have their legs shaved and to have no marks on their feet.

He states that this was an ‘it’ moment for him when “it struck me that what we are doing is taking that age-old tradition forward in advertising or trying to showcase something that is not normal with the consumers today.”

He is sure when people look at shots, they are looking at the footwear and not so much the feet, but some people are looking at the feet and saying "my feet don't look anything like this."

Neeman’s, as per Sahani, addresses this existing gap. “… Tell people it's okay to have normal-looking feet, it's okay to have hair on your legs, and still be proudly showing that off in a photo and to not be anxious about the fact that you're not picture-perfect.”

Another factor which led to this decision were the “internal customers” of Neeman’s. They are employees who wear the brand’s shoe day in and out and test its comfort levels. Their question to Sahani: What if someday you want to use our feet in the image, will you use them?

“I had no answer to that question,” reveals the social media head. So, he introspected and today says, a lot of brands are moving into the zone of shooting content in-house.

“So, why do we look for feet models outside the brand when we have so many inside? Since not feet all are meant to look the same, why not just showcase them? That's how the idea originated.”

What, however, did not come organically was the founder’s post. Sahani says the brand wanted to make a simple statement and then go and deliver into every imagery they now roll out.

However, Chaabra decided otherwise. "If for some reason an image still doesn't meet that standard that we've tried to highlight in the note, we are hoping for feedback, and we will take the image back and change it.”

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