It does not matter what color the shoe is. It does not matter whether it was a photo of Bill Murray or Tom Hanks, or why the legs were shiny, or if the ham was blurry, or, of course, what color the dress was.
What matters is this: We have the shoe. We are to gaze upon it, the way its laces contrast the greater surface of the shoe, and the way those hues match the sickly pallor of the hand holding it. Is the shoe pink and white, or is it gray and green? The answer is yes. Asking the question is the entire point.
In this case, the image itself seems to be manipulated:
As with the dress, the shoe is a case of our brains clearly perceiving an image in a certain set of colors but then correcting for lighting. The photo of the shoe is teal and gray; the shoe itself, our brain knows by comparing the shoe to the color of the hand, is pink and white. As Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at the National Eye Institute, told The Guardian:
“Basically, your visual system is constantly trying to colour-correct the images projected on the retina, to remove the colour contamination introduced by the spectral bias in the light source,” he said.
“The sky is blue, but everything you see under a blue sky isn’t blue. This is because your visual system is pretty darn good at figuring out what part of the light that you’re seeing is caused by the light source, and what part is caused by the surfaces themselves. We only really care about the surfaces – this is the part of the light that tells us about objects. The color of the light itself is usually pretty meaningless.”
Indeed we do only really care about the surfaces—in this case, the RTs and favs that a perfectly manipulated image might garner. May there be a new dress for each season of our lives on this earth.