When entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie visited Argentina, he was intrigued by the canvas slip-on shoes (known as alpargatas) that were popular among local polo players. On the same trip, he noticed just how many impoverished locals--especially children--ran through the streets barefoot because they couldn't afford shoes. Mycoskie returned home to the United States and decided to launch a new venture to design and mass-market his own alpargatas with the stipulation that for every pair sold, another pair of shoes would be sent to a child living in poverty somewhere in the world. The company name Toms derived from the word "tomorrow," and it began selling shoes in 2006.
Toms garnered great publicity almost immediately after its launch, and it sold more than 10,000 shoes within the first six months. Over the last several years, the brand has expanded its footwear product line in addition to venturing into other categories like eyewear, coffee, and bags. Each division of the company sponsors unique charitable efforts. In 2014, Mycoskie sold a 50-percent stake in Toms to the investment firm Bain Capital in an effort to keep growing the company. Under joint ownership, the brand continues its "one-for-one" policy of giving to the needy for every sale it makes. To date, Toms has donated more than 35 million pairs of shoes.
Though the look of the shoes may vary slightly, the basic style of Toms is uniform among most of its products. These lightweight shoes have sturdy rubber soles and comfortable uppers made of materials like canvas or cotton. Slip-ons are the most popular, but you can also find styles that lace up. In kids' sizes, these Toms shoes are available in several different colors, and many of them feature fun, zany prints. Beyond the classic style, other shoes for kids include sneakers, boots, ballet flats, wedges, and sandals. You can also find crib shoes for very little children. In accessories, Toms backpacks are a great option for taking to school.
Toms classics for women are also available in a wide range of different patterns--though some of them are more sophisticated than those in kids' sizes. The brand also makes several varieties of stylish shoes and boots that feature materials like leather, suede, corduroy, and wool. The Toms eyewear collection includes sunglasses with metal or plastic frames--many of which have polarized lenses. The brand has also recently started to venture into women's apparel with options like sweatshirts, henleys, tanks, and tees. Accessories for women include purses, totes, wallets, and more.
In an age when so many companies make headlines because of their questionable ethics, it's refreshing to see a brand like Toms that has gained notoriety for doing good in the world. The brand's shoes are incredibly popular because they are lightweight, durable, and comfortable, but Toms also scores high marks among consumers who know they are helping someone in need with their purchase. The brand isn't exactly cheap, but it is affordable enough that it won't price out the average family. We give Toms 5 stars out of 5.