SOMEWHERE ON A CONTINUUM of casual footwear, between Sperry Top-Siders and Vans, sit Toms, the embodiment of unisex functionality and nonchalance—and with a Texas pedigree, no less. Their creator, Blake Mycoskie, a Gen Xer with roots in Arlington and Austin, launched the Toms shoe company last spring following a month-long sojourn in Argentina. After a decade of entrepreneurship (television, advertising, a stint on The Amazing Race), he had traveled to South America to recharge on a ranch and try his hand at polo, but, as he put it, “after three weeks, you (a) want to go back home or (b) do something more meaningful.” That’s when Mycoskie made a connection—and a business plan. He had noticed that the native farmers wore rope-soled slip-ons called alpargatas, yet many of the local children walked barefoot. Mycoskie put two and two together to rethink the century-old shoe and tie in good design with simple philanthropy: He began manufacturing modern alpargatas with leather linings, rubber bottoms, and patterns—stripes, plaids, camo, splatter-paint—and for every pair sold, he gave one away. This November, 50,000 will go to South Africa and Malawi. And come August, a Tiny Toms line will have even the little ones covered—perhaps their first step to making the world a more comfortable place.

Toms, $38; Tiny Toms, $28. Available through or at the Royal Family, 500 San Marcos, Ste. 104, Austin, 512-485-3081; Octane, 3699 McKinney Ave., Ste. 310, Dallas, 214-219-3118; Merge, 5800 Legacy Dr., Ste. C3, Plano, 972-378-5242; and Lot 8, 6127 Kirby Dr., Houston, 713-807-1565.