"It was a happy accident that we became creators."
David Bonney, founder of Atheist Shoes, wasn’t expecting to launch a shoe business when he shared a photo of leather oxfords he had made on Reddit. The lace-up pair featured the words Ich Bin Atheist on the sole, “a playful melding of [my] hobby for shoemaking and the wish that atheists would be more open about their godlessness,” he says.
Not long after, his post reached the mythical first page of Reddit — and his inbox began overflowing with requests for shoes. “Overnight, we had a business on our hands.”
Stunned by their unexpected popularity, Bonney and a few friends launched a Kickstarter project to maintain the sudden demand their footwear creation. “There was a lot to learn, in a short space of time,” he says. “Kickstarter helped us figure out who our customers were and why they wanted our shoes. [...] It also helped us to understand what a poignant issue atheism was for so many people.”
Five years and five successful Kickstarter projects later, Atheist Shoes is a Berlin-based footwear retailer offering minimalist, Bauhaus-inspired styles, from leather ankle boots to vegan oxfords. Their latest Kickstarter project is Das Sneaker, a simple handmade pair featuring a leather upper and soft, cushioned sole (emblazoned with the company’s memorable motto, of course).
While high-quality materials and innovative designs are at the top of the company’s priorities, Bonney says the best part of running Atheist Shoes is connecting with their supportive community of both shoe-lovers and fellow atheists.
“I remember getting a message from a teenager in Kansas who thanked us for the ‘brave’ idea of making an atheist shoe,” he says. “He’d used a conversation about our shoes as a means of ‘coming out’ as a non-believer to his evangelical parents. He and his mother ended up in tears; she wanted to back our [Kickstarter] project, so he could have Atheist Shoes for his birthday. [...] Who’d have thought a mere shoe could mean so much?”