I was reading an article today that used "wear shoes" metaphorically and I have no idea what they're trying to say. The context is an Indian outsourcing company diversifying by using its existing development resources to produce software suites and server-based platforms. In the quote they are contrasting their existing development services with these new assets:

On the positive side, unlike their developers and consultants, the assets [explanatory note: these were newly-created Products, Platforms, and Solutions] did not always wear shoes. As such, they offered margins that were far higher than could be obtained for services contracted on a per-hour or per-job basis.

One of the authors is Indian, so this may be a translation of an Indian idiom, but I couldn't find anything on Google or SE.

  • 1
    From the context I think they might mean that PP&S assets are not human assets, but I'm not sure. Another source confirming or disproving this would be ideal.
    – Sabre
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:16
  • Do you have a link to the article? More context might make this clearer. (I don’t have the foggiest what they’re trying to say, either.) Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:21
  • Unfortunately the article is under copyright (reading it for a class). As far as I understand Fair Use, I can only really post the relevant quote. I added a bit more context if it helps.
    – Sabre
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:29
  • So the assets are these new software suites and server-based platforms? If so, I would imagine you’re right: it refers to these assets being machines that don’t have any of our human needs, like wearing shoes/clothes, taking breaks, payment, sleep, etc. Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:33
  • Yes they are, I'll clarify that too. I suspect you're right, but hopefully someone with better source-fu than me can find it being used somewhere else and confirm.
    – Sabre
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


I'm almost 100 percent sure the meaning has to do with formality. Quick answer: it means the assets weren't restricted or hindered like the others were.

First, the literal aspect:
Wearing shoes in the formal business world is something you're expected to do. It's how you're following the dress code and you're staying inline with everyone else.

Now for the metaphorical stuff:
After the idiom, the quote says as such meaning that because of the idiom, something is happening. So because they didn't wear shoes, they offered higher margins than they usually would.

Putting these together, the assets didnt wear shoes and were therefore breaking the standard code and were able to provide more than usual. They weren't held back by anything.


I believe it means exactly what it says... That is, that they can offer high profit margins because they themselves were not always rich. As in they are referring to a time when they were poor (and wore no shoes, so to speak). And therefore they are not as profit-driven as their ruthless competitors with high pricing for bigger profit margins are.

  • Please take a moment to tour the site and see the help center. This seems speculative...how is it any less profit-driven to replace jobs with machines, and how does that relate to the phrase about shoes?
    – livresque
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 23:15

This idiom survives in southern American English, although by this point it is archaic and even when it had currency it was somewhat obscure.

The following is an excerpt from a write-up of the 8th episode of the 3rd season of the HBO series 'Deadwood', called 'Leviathan Smiles' where a brothel worker (an enforcer) is laying out a detailed and well-paced case for why the man he's speaking to has scammed one of the house's working girls into giving up some free sex.

'Again, Morg, Johnny is in no joking mood about his favorite whore. "Worked it from her at this very bar in idle chatter," Johnny says, like Perry Mason on a cross examine, "having a sister who whored at the Yellow Bird in Gunnison, and only then alleged the supposed owed eleven dollars." Morgan whistles. "How long you been wearing shoes, counselor?"'

This rather playful but floppy metaphor encompasses doing things above board, by the book, according to that which is fair and logical, or to someone's behaving in those ways.

Link to the original and full page of that write-up.

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