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Thanks to the ‘Shoe Theory,’ I’m now afraid of getting dumped at Christmas

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Shoe better watch out

There may be trouble afoot for lovers planning to gift sneakers, sandals, heels, loafers or any other form of footwear to their significant other this Christmas. 

Thanks to the terrifyingly trendy #ShoeTheory hashtag, which has scared up more than 11.8 million TikTok views, Gen Z daters fear that giving a pair of shoes to a boyfriend or girlfriend will render them single before the new year. 

“[I] just found out about the shoe theory,” exclaimed TikToker Megan Grace, 18, in the closed-captions of her virtual confessional, titled “It’s a curse.”

According to the superstition, merely purchasing the shoes with the intent of gifting them can come at a cost to a relationship.

“I bought my [boyfriend] the Lightning McQueen Crocs for Christmas this year,” Grace continued in her post about the $65 sold-out slippers, which has garnered over 3.3 million views. “And he broke up with me three weeks after I bought them and a month before Christmas.”

Gen Z TikTokers like Megan Grace are warning others about the devastating #ShoeTheory, which suggests that buying a significant other shoes will result in a breakup.
Gen Z TikTokers like Megan Grace are warning others about the devastating #ShoeTheory, which suggests that buying a significant other shoes will result in a breakup.
megan.grace20/TikTok

The shoe theory is the latest revelation to send shockwaves through Gen Z timelines. Earlier this month, the truth about nutcrackers dominated Twitter. 

However, unlike the figurines that originated in Germany during the late 17th century, the provenance of the ominous shoe theory is murky. 

It’s believed to be rooted in both ancient African religious practices and Chinese folklore. And it warns that bad luck is sure to plague any relationship, including platonic friendships, when shoes are exchanged as a token of affection.  

Million on TikTok now fear that gifting their boyfriend or girlfriend with shoes will leave them heartbroken.
Millions on TikTok now fear that gifting their boyfriend or girlfriend with shoes will leave them heartbroken.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The shoe theory is rooted and ancient folklore, and tied to Chinese superstition.
The shoe theory is rooted in ancient folklore, and tied to Chinese superstition.
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Researchers have found that superstitions are intrinsically false, but rather time-tested cultural beliefs that have yet to be proven by science.
Researchers have found that superstitions aren’t intrinsically false, but rather time-tested cultural beliefs that have yet to be proven by science.
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According to the South China Morning Post, the pronunciation of the word “shoe” sounds similar to the word “evil” in Mandarin or “rough” in Cantonese, thereby signaling impending devastation for both the giver and receiver. 

And there may be a reason that this old wives’ tale continues to persist. 

A May 2021 article on superstitious folklore by the University of Southern California noted that “calling something a superstition does not mean the belief is untrue, it simply means it has not been scientifically accepted.” 

The researchers continued, “whether a folk belief is or is not true, some may find it comforting to adhere to it, rather than run the risk that a loved one will leave or be injured.”

A number of young women are sharing their horror stories online in effort to help others avoid a similar outcome.
A number of young women are sharing their horror stories online in effort to help others avoid a similar outcome.
lilbih923/TikTok

And now, recently dumped social-media users are virally sharing their shoe-gifting sob stories — accompanied by audio from Lana Del Rey’s 2019 hit “Mariners Apartment Complex” — ahead of the holidays. 

“[The] shoe theory is 100% accurate [because] one time I bought a man $400 Jordans for Christmas and he broke up with me a month later,” a crestfallen TikToker confessed to an audience of 1.4 million viewers. She added, “He didn’t even give me the shoes back.”

Taylor Castro, a 20-year-old TikToker, has also felt the stomach kick of the shoe theory, revealing in a post with more than 738,500 views: “I bought my ex a pair of shoes [that] he really wanted for Xmas and we broke up a week after.”

She continued, “He even put the shoes up on [a reseller’s website] the date we broke up.”

Some TikTokers plan to gift their partner with shoes, hoping that he or she will be the one to end the relationship shortly thereafter.
Some TikTokers plan to gift their partner with shoes, hoping that he or she will be the one to end the relationship shortly thereafter.
Getty Images

A number of users are bracing themselves for post-Christmas pain.
A number of users are bracing themselves for post-Christmas pain.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Former skeptics are also attesting to the theory’s validity. 

“When I [first heard about the shoe theory] I was like, ‘This seems dumb,’ ” admitted a TikToker named Katie, 21. “But then I had a lightbulb moment. I had gifted an ex of mine a pair of shoes … and they definitely walked out of my life.”

Some spooked sweethearts who’ve purchased kicks for their partner for Christmas are virtually praying they don’t get kicked to the curb. 

“Why is the shoe theory just coming out?” questioned a TikToker known as @CryingWithGab. “I didn’t just buy a $100 pair of shoes to be broken up with.”

Others are hoping the curse works in their favor. 

“I’m about to buy this boy a pair of shoes [in the hopes that] the shoe theory is correct so he can stay TF out of my life,” another TikToker said.

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