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Are Shoes Clothing, Apparel, or Fashion Accessories?

Red heeled shoes next to a handbag - are they both accessories?
Accessories? Or Clothes?

Those shoes you wear on your feet – what are they? Clothing? Accessories? Apparel? Garments? If you’ve ever wondered, it should come as no surprise that many people disagree on the exact definitions. Read on to find out answer!

Shoes are normally considered clothing, since people wear shoes for the purposes of protection and insulation. They are also apparel and footwear. However, in fashion and retail, they are often considered accessories, since they can be used to complete a particular look or outfit.

Confused yet? Us too. Read on for a more complete breakdown of each of these definitions and how they apply to shoes, as well as some counterarguments we’ve found:

Are Shoes Considered Clothing?

Hiking shoes in deep snow
Shoes not optional - does this make them clothing?

Yes, shoes are considered clothing. The broad definition of clothing is items that are worn to cover parts of the body, and shoes are often essential for protecting your feet. However, shoes are often separated from clothing in retail and fashion, where they are considered accessories since they are used to complement the main outfit.

The definition becomes less clear when considering items that provide less coverage. Are, for example, flip flops clothes? Although they lack coverage on top, they do protect the soles of the feet from getting hurt. They do however, feel less essential.

What about when shoes are no longer required? Some suggest that shoes are clothing when outdoors, but accessories indoors, where they are not essential. You might, for example, remove your shoes when entering someone’s house or a place of worship, but you wouldn’t normally stop wearing clothes!

Are Shoes Apparel?

Yes, shoes are considered apparel, which is another word for personal attire or clothing. Apparel broadly covers any item used to cover the body, and this includes shoes as well as clothes.

Are Shoes Garments?

Yes, shoes are commonly considered garments, which is typically used interchangeably with attire or clothing. Some sources indicate that garments are specific to the body, and that shoes are a separate category called footwear, although this is not universal – others consider footwear a subcategory of garments.

Are Shoes Accessories?

Fashionable yellow ankle boots worn by woman sitting on a stool
These boots are definitely acting as accessories - but does that mean they're not clothes?

Accessories typically cover both accessories that can be worn, such as hats, belts, and jewelry, and carried accessories, such as handbags, purses, or even ceremonial swords.

Shoes are considered accessories in fashion and retail industry, where items are considered relative to the main outfit. In this case, shoes are accessories because they are used to accessorize or complement the main clothes. However, in general usage, some people prefer to call them clothes, since they are essential, rather than optional.

The definition then, depends upon your viewpoint, are you defining shoes as part of your outfit (in which case they are likely accessories) or through their utility (in which case they are clothes).


So there you have it. Shoes are commonly considered both clothing and accessories, although some people insist they sit squarely within one category only! In many cases, the answer will depend upon the context.

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