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On playing Sherlock Holmes — or Sarah stares at shoes
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On playing Sherlock Holmes — or Sarah stares at shoes: 07/11/15

There's a lot that can be learned from a person's clothing.

Sherlock Holmes is famous for sussing out a person's story through astute observation of his or her clothing. Taken to extremes he's spotting the tiniest mote of coal dust from some specific backwater region of the Empire and thus unraveling a lengthy set of lies perpetrated by the criminal mastermind. But in reality, there's a lot that can be learned from a person's clothing.

One spends a lot of time waiting when traveling. There are planes to catch, borders to cross, taxis to hail, trains to ride, tables to sit at. And to pass the time, I people watched. More specifically, I watched their feet and their shoes.

Originally I started the shoe watching while we were still at SFO waiting to board the Lady Penelope (isn't it great when a plane, train, or ship has a name?). We had about an hour to board and people were queuing up (I was already thinking in a muddled British English). We all had to have our passports and boarding passes out, which meant, I had a quick way of verifying my observations.

So here was the game: guess the passport by the type of shoes. Turns out it was pretty easy. I was able to ascertain the passport about 80% of the time based solely (haha) on the person's shoes. We like to assume our favorite brands and styles are world wide but they aren't. Trainers and sneakers look different, even if they serve the same purpose. Women and men's formal shoes look different too.

In the end I was most successful with finding UK, US, and French passengers by their shoes. The trickier ones were the Commonwealth ones: The Australians and Canadians seemed to wear close approximations to the UK and US shoes, and probably many were wearing the same brands or their regional styles were close enough to fool this untrained eye.
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