Bringing comfort & godlessness to the USA, via a bus full of handmade shoes & a whole lotta love from friendly European atheists
About this project
Back in 2012, Kickstarter helped us launch ATHEIST Shoes: handmade, super comfy, minimalist, retro sneakers, with the words “ICH BIN ATHEIST” on the soles. We’ve since sold thousands of pairs, all over the world, but mostly in the USA.
We’re based in Berlin, Germany, and we sometimes hold pop-up shops in the big US cities. But we’re ready to take our message further, into the heart of “REAL America”… and we need aMobile Shoe Shop to do that, nay a whole FLEET of Atheist Shoes Missionary Fun Buses.
We’ll take the most beautiful retro buses we can find… renovate them to the height of snazz… equip them with young, eager, friendly European atheist drivers… pack them with shoes… and unleash this loving heathen package on the USA, spreading comfort and godlessness wherever we go.
Why a bus?
It’s kinda like Street Food… well, Street Shoes… and it makes sense for a whole bunch of reasons:
– The traditional way to crack the USA is to get your shoes into stores. But we want to sell direct to our customers, which allows us keep prices down and continue using the best materials. We couldn’t do that if we had to split our profits with retailers. And a mobile shoe shop gives us a real alternative.
– Pop-ups work well in big cities like SF and NYC, but the frontline battle against religious intolerance and crappy footwear is in the small towns dotted across the US, and a bus gives us the flexibility to reach them. We want to show the friendly, comfy face of atheism where it’s needed most… in Alabama, Texas, Utah, Tennessee, Georgia, etc.
– We sell most of our shoes over the internet; it works really well and our return rates are super low, in part due to our wonderful size guide. But our web shop will never compare to feeling our shoes in your hands, smelling them and trying their sumptuous comfort in the flesh. It’s a joy seeing people trying our shoes for the first time, and a mobile shoe shop let’s us see that all the time!
Our Shoes – handmade & ridiculously comfy
ATHEIST shoes are designed in Berlin and handmade in Porto by traditional shoemakers who’ve been at the top of their trade for 20 years. They’re exceedingly comfy and we’re regularly flattered to hear from customers who think they’re the comfiest shoes ever!
The following video explains more…
The design is aesthetically minimal, as we try remain faithful to Bauhaus principles. We use as few pieces of leather as we can – just 3 pieces of upper leather, whereas most shoemaking uses 10+. And the shoe is an exercise in “form-through-function”, with our last having been inspired by the shape of a real human foot, which is surprisingly rare in last design.
Our leather is the greatest contributor to the shoes’ comfort – Nubuck, Napa, Pull-up Full-grain – all natural and unprocessed, only vegetable dyed and gently tumbled for added softness. Despite that softness, these leathers are as robust as any, and will keep your feet warm and dry in winter, cool and airy in summer. The lining is organic calfskin and creates a uniquely silky feeling for the foot.
We really use the finest leathers possible… even though we’re told they’re “too good to be used in shoes”… and that “their quality won’t be appreciated”. Well, poppycock to that… we’ve never met a customer who didn’t immediately perceive that our leathers are more splendid than anything they’ve ever seen in a shoe. Worth noting also that we regularly work with very soft artificial leathers, so we will be happy to make you vegan-friendly shoes, if you’d prefer.
Finally, our soles are natural rubber, harvested sustainably from the Pará rubber tree (hevea brasiliensis).
What will we do with our bus(es)?
Our plan is to tour the entirety of the USA – anywhere we’re invited, and everywhere we’re not; we’ve already been asked to come to Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Florida and we’re keen to see where else our Kickstarter backers would like us to go!
We’ll sell our shoes wherever we can – on busy shopping streets, at festivals, Sunday Assemblies, conferences, political rallies. And we might also sell coffee, throw parties, organise comedy shows or talks… we have an ever-growing community of atheist friends across the US and we’d like to use our bus(es) to bring them together.
Once we hit the road, our hope is to stay in perpetual motion, until either we run out of money, or every single atheist in the US has come out of the closet and owns a pair of quality handmade shoes.
We believe that any human’s life can be improved by comfortable shoes and a little free thought, so we look forward to bringing both to all shapes and creeds of American, religious or not, experienced in nice footwear or tending towards Crocs.
We’ve explored the legalities, sussed out the right permits, and we now feel ready to launch! Just as soon as we have a bus, that is…
Once we’re rolling, you’ll be able to follow our adventures, via a series of articles we’ve been asked to write for a topnotch magazine… and via a documentary film we’ll be making, snippets of which our backers will get to enjoy as we trundle our way across that giant, confusing landmass.
It’s tough being atheist in the USA
When we launched ATHEIST Shoes, we were quite laissez-faire about our godlessness; it was an art project, a curious experiment, not likely to cause much upset in Europe. But the response from the USA has been profound and sobering; from offended believers graffiti’ing our shoes and US Postal Workers making our packages disappear, to grateful teenagers writing us tear-stained letters about how they used our shoes to “come out” to their Evangelical Christian parents.
It’s been deeply gratifying that our work has provoked such responses and it’s made us realise just how serious and important an issue the promotion of free thought is. We’re lucky to live in a country where secularism and respect for atheism are a given, and we feel a responsibility to bring those values to a country where they are not. Our bus isn’t going to change a whole lot, but we do hope to attract a little press as we go and, if we can help just a handful of atheists feel more comfortable about expressing their thoughts openly, then the entire trip will have been worthwhile.
Your reward… shoes!
We’re rewarding backers in the only way we know… shoes! (well socks and tote bags too, but mostly shoes). Shoes-wise, you can choose from:
- 2 styles (high-top boot, or low-top shoe)
- 3 types of leather (nubuck, napa, pull-up) & a vegan option
- 15 colours
- All shoes have our über special “ICH BIN ATHEIST” rubber sole.
You can check out some of our range here: www.atheistberlin.com, but we’ll provide you with a detailed look-book before you’re asked to make a final decision on style or colour (that’ll come later, after you pledge).
Sizing is Easy
Send us your foot length and we’ll GUARANTEE you a size that fits. Our sizing system is correct about 94% of the time. But, in the unlikely event you need to exchange for a different size, we offer FREE SHIPPING, so it won’t cost you another penny.
And if you don’t believe us…
You might like to read what our customers have said.
Or take the word of the nice journalists who’ve written about us… like Fast Company, who chose us as one of their “Products of the Year” in 2013!
Risks and challenges
We’ve been making shoes for 4 years now, so we know what we’re doing and there’s no risk of you not ending up with shoes if you support our project.
We have less experience of driving a mobile shoe shop throughout the USA, but we have tried it in California and we have spoken to a US lawyer about all the legalities and formalities involved… so we don’t feel entirely naive going into this project. Ultimately, we know this journey is going to make for a fascinating story and, even if selling shoes from the back of a bus isn’t commercially sustainable on an ongoing basis, we’ll at least have learned a little more about the USA, its values, its people and its attitudes towards high quality, heathenistic footwear.