Many of us were excited when the latest line of Vans’ Marvel-branded shoes popped up online. The shoes are comic-book colorful and cool, and I dream of having them all on my feet. Unfortunately for a significant portion of Marvel fans, the Captain Marvel shoes stop at Men’s size 10. This did not go over well, nor should it.
The new Vans feature kicks inspired by the likes of Black Panther, Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, and more. The most buzz was reserved for the most recent addition to the MCU in the form of Carol Danvers, and the shoes made in her “image.” Carol is particularly on our minds following the debut of her symbol in Infinity War‘s chaotic post-credits scene.
On June 1st, Matthew Mueller over at Comicbook.com gave us a first look at the Carol-based shoes, which had leaked to the Internet prior to Vans’ official announcement. Mueller described the excellent Captain Marvel high tops:
[T]hey feature a full Captain Marvel color scheme of red, blue, and gold. The outsole of the shoe is all white, while the tongue and toe box are red with white eyelets. The Upper features a gold wavy stripe across a mostly blue backdrop, while the heel features gold trim and a big splash of red with Captain Marvel’s Hala Star logo in gold right in the middle.
Red laces complete the stylish package, and we simply can’t wait to get our hands on them.
Cool as hell, right? Mueller certainly thought so, and he was hardly alone. Carol Danvers already has a lot of fans, and that’s going to grow exponentially after Captain Marvel hits theaters next March and also when she saves the world in Avengers 4.
But on June 8th, following the shoes’ official release to sale, Mueller was back with a follow-up. Those Captain Marvel shoes he couldn’t wait to score are only available up to Men’s size 10. “Some shoes only come in certain sizes, we get that, but the male characters didn’t have the same problem, as those go all the way up to 13,” he wrote.
There’s the rub. These were clearly produced with the expectation that they would be purchased primarily by women, and that is incredibly short-sighted—not to mention the fact that there are many women, both trans and cis, and people of every identification who would also appreciate a higher range of size.
And this doesn’t appear to be a mistake or an oversight on Vans’ part at all: it was an intentional decision. Mueller explained:
So, it comes down to that Captain Marvel is a female character, right? It looks like it, as I wasn’t the only person utterly bummed that I can’t rock some slick Carol Danvers kicks, as Vans has received several responses to the news, asking if they were going to offer bigger sizes at a later time.
Concerned fans received responses like this:
There are bad and outdated gender dynamics baked into the clothing industry and particularly in geek merch (we won’t even get started on toys). While things have gotten better as more companies cater to the diversity of fans ready to spend hard-earned cash to display their fandom love, officially branded merchandise is often the most lacking.
At my local Forbidden Planet store, the Black Widow shirt—the only shirt that featured her—only came in “girl’s cut,” a style I dislike wearing, and its largest size was laughable. One of my best friends was angry that he couldn’t find a Wonder Woman shirt that would fit him before the movie came out. And sizing, in general, is an issue on its own divorced from gender, with many brands still not carrying sizes to accommodate the range of bodies that would like to wear them.
I think the case of the Captain Marvel shoes was a narrow-minded decision where a company did not take into account that many men (and people of many gender identifications) will proudly rock merchandise based on an “AWESOME women’s character.” What makes this all the more ridiculous is that the shoes at hand are visibly unisex: there’s nothing about a red, blue, gold and white shoe that screams “girl” or “boy.” They’re just cool shoes that should be available to everyone.
Yet the fact of the matter remains that we still see a concerted lack of female representation in superhero branded stuff, and so much of this is based on an antiquated idea that the fans spending money on this sort of thing are primarily male and that men are only interested in male characters. Both of these notions are patently untrue.
It’s like I’m writing this from twenty years ago, and it feels exhausting. When merchandise featuring men comes in every size—”male” and “female”—but something bearing a woman’s name is only sized for “women,” that is, these days, frankly unacceptable. Let there be sizing for all.
The only good that I see emerging from this kerfluffle is that hopefully Vans and Marvel will take notice of the feedback, and not do this again—and also, it is wonderful to see men rallying to wear female characters on their sleeve (or feet, as the case may be).
This feels like an antithesis of the recent Star Wars fandom toxicity, and the response made me as happy as the sizing made me mad. To everyone asking to rock some Captain Marvel, I see you, and thank you.