Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shoes-Off at Parties?

re-post

There are some people who are strict about no-shoes in their homes who make an exception for parties. They feel that parties are an occasion when people expect to dress up and this must include shoes. I disagree with their view. I think it is perfectly reasonable to require shoes to be removed for a party.

In Canada and Scandinavia, it is common for people to attend formal parties with a special set of party shoes that are not worn outdoors. This is not really feasible in the UK. I doubt that many British folks have shoes that are never worn oudoors, unless they keep a pair of sneakers to go to the gym. And if those formal party shoes have high-heels, they are unacceptable anyway.

Some people say that part of a party is clearing up afterwards, so you should not make a fuss about mess from people's shoes. This seems a little silly to my mind. People will make more than enough mess at a party without them bringing in dirt on their shoes. There will be plenty of spilled wine and crumbs ground into the carpet without chewing gum and dog dirt from peoples' shoes as well. Also the main party season in the West is Christmas and New Year, when there will be plenty of rain and snow (maybe not snow in England, but plenty of rain). The party season is a wet season.

Some argue that people will feel silly and uncomfortable at a party without their shoes. It is true that people might find it a little odd. But they will probably feel more comfortable for having removed their shoes. If it is made clear in the invitation that shoes willl need to be removed, then it will not come as a shock. Furthermore, if there is alcohol at the party, then most people will be feeling more relaxed.

The main argument levelled against shoes-off at parties is that people dress up for parties. A lot of people, particularly women, will chose their outfits very carefully and they the choice of shoes is part of that selction. For them, a party is an occasion to show off their good taste. They would not want to combine their cocktail dresses with barefeet.

In response I would say that parties are hardly the only occasions for dressing up. Ladies can show off their fancy shoes in restaurants or at the races. Not all parties are such formal occasions. If a party is a smart-casual event, it is actually quite rude to dress up more smartly than other guests.

The host sets the theme of a party. If it is meant to be a fancy dress party, then you should make the effort to find a costume or stay home. If it is an informal party, leave the suit or cocktail dress at home. If it is a no-shoes party, leave the kitten heels at the door.

I keep making this point, but I will make it again: it is best that guests know in advance that shoe-removal is required. If you are printing fancy invitations, make it known there (with some clip-art maybe?). If people know that they will have to take their shoes off, it will not come as a shock and they can plan their outfit with this in mind. They can bring some nice slippers that complement their outfit if they want and they can avoid long trousers that only look right when worn with high heels.

There is the question of whether it is really possible to hold a formal party while people are shoeless. It may be difficult in the West to maintain an air of formality when everybody is without their shoes, but is that really such a bad thing? Is it not better to be relaxed at a party? Certainly, the host and guests can make an effort to keep the party formal. Men can look reasonably smart by combining respectable slippers with their suits and women can look pretty elegant in stocking feet. So all is not lost. If shoes-off in homes becomes more common, shoe-lessnes will probably become less associated with being casual and informal.

There are some people who will certainly be far more happy and comfortable to party without their shoes on. As I argued in a previous post, it is not simply a matter of giving these people the choice. At a shoes-on party, those who take it upon themselves to remove their shoes are likely to get their feet squashed and to have to walk on a soggy carpet. Shoes-off for all guests makes it easier for those who want to take their shoes off.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

My wife and I attended a Christmas party earlier this week...while shoes off was not a reqirement all of the women who were wearing heels removed them as they entered so as to not mar the homes hardwood floors. It felt odd to be at a party where only the women were shoeless.
Bob

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Did you remove your shoes? I usually take mine off without being asked.

It is nice to see women worrying about the effects of their perilous heels.

Of course, flat shoes can also leave marks on wooden floors, so I think the men at that party ought to have followed the ladies' lead.

Most houses I visit have carpets, so I have not seen that happen.

When my ex-girlfriend and fiance first visited my current house she did not want to take her shoes off, but when she saw the marble hallway, she decided that to take them off as they had heels.

God Bless

Matthew

Anonymous said...

No I did not remove my shoes....my wife and I arrived seperately as it was her office Christmas party and she went directly after work with some of the other ladies from her office...When I arrived I looked down and saw the shoes and was immediately told not to take mine off as it was a female "thing"...not wanting to insult her boss I complied with his wishes...on the way home I asked my wife about it and she told me that when she and her office mates arrived one of them said I better take off my shoes so my heels don't mark up your floors. The other women including my wife who was not wearing heels all followed suit to be polite. Women who arrived afterwards all followed suit and left their shoes at the door...I guess it must be a women "thing"
Have a good day
Bob

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

richyrich said...

Funny that you should have mentioned the fact of shoe removal being a ladies' thing Anonymous. A while ago (I think I've already mentioned it on here)I discussed the subject with a woman I know and she seemed to think that taking shoes off when visiting people's houses was becoming more common and I asked her if it was something she would do. She said that she didn't think it was a right thing for a lady to do and that she would only do so if her shoes were clearly dirty. She is of an older generation (in her 60's I think)but she did say that some of her son's (who's in his 20's) friends will automatically take off their shoes when they visit her house without being asked. So maybe it is more of a generational than a gender thing with younger people more likely to take off their shoes indoors.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Based on experience and internet discussions I think there are three factors that can be seen in gender differences:

Women are slightly more likely to think about the carpet or flooring than male visitors.

Women are more likely to take their shoes off to get more comfortable.

But on the other hand, women are more likely than men to be unhappy about being asked on the spot to take their shoes off, either because they have chosen their shoes to match the outfit or because they have not had a pedicure.

At my home Bible study group, the difference is age. We younger people all take our shoes off, but the majority who are all over forty or fifty keep them on.

God Bless

Matthew

Anonymous said...

Richyrich/Matthew...a few comments on your recent postings....the attendees at the Christmas party were for the most part over 40 so it was not a generational thing there....I think that Matthew's observations are correct about women and shoe removal, however I think that reluctance to do so is less about lack of a recent pedicure but rather a sense of losing control over a situation....
By way of reference my wife and I are both over 40 and do not have an issue with removing our shoes.
Have a nice day
Bob

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Bob, I am sure the feeling of losing control is a big part of it, though the fact that many women pay good money for pedicures suggests that they may not like being caught barefoot without them.

Are there no women who are able to comment on this one?

Anonymous said...

Matthew, I don't mean to belabor the point but, yes women do spend a good deal of money on pedicures but not all women get them regularly...and how is this any different from not having a manicure as a womens hands are much more visable than her toes even if she was sans shoes. The pedicure argument would be more valid in the summer, but in the winter a women would be much more apt to be wearing some type of foot covering...socks, tights or stockings...I do agree that it would be interesting to hear a womens perspective on the issue.
Have a good day...
Bob

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

True.

Choice of sub-shoes is another issue.

An occasional commenter on this blog often points out that she wears tube socks under her boots and would feel very silly if these were exposed.

Some women feel that socks and skirts dont match and the current fashion for boots makes this a jeopardy.

The moral of all this is to try to let people know in advance that they will need to take their shoes off.

God Bless

Matthew

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

My ex-girlfriend once complained that her feet were cold in just pantyhose. She wanted to put her shoes on, but I suggested she put some socks on instead.

She did, but she said she felt very silly wearing socks with a pencil skirt.

She started brining slippers with her after that.

God Bless

Matthew

Anonymous said...

Matthew..your points are well taken and it would be best to know in advance so one can prepare properly. However there can be a multitude of situations that arise where advance notice is not possible..for example, the Christmas party we attended earlier this week, an unexpected invitation to someones home or even an unexpected rain shower. All of these possibilities can give rise to unexpected shoe removal....perhaps there is a business idea here...shoe manufactures can include coordinating slippers with their shoes that can be carried by a women in her purse!
Another thought just struck me...there are many countries in the world where shoe removal is the norm and the females in those countries are just as fashion conscience as those in the UK and the USA, I wonder how women in those cultures deal with the issue without becoming upset!
At any rate, I do enjoy exchanging ideas with you as one comment leads to another
Once again have a good day
Bob

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

"However there can be a multitude of situations that arise where advance notice is not possible..for example, the Christmas party we attended earlier this week, an unexpected invitation to someones home or even an unexpected rain shower."

I agree.

If you want to go through life without ever taking your shoes off in public, you are going to have problems.

The people who have viewed our house in the last year did not know they would have to take their shoes off, but thay have been gracious about it.

"Another thought just struck me...there are many countries in the world where shoe removal is the norm and the females in those countries are just as fashion conscience as those in the UK and the USA, I wonder how women in those cultures deal with the issue without becoming upset!"

I supposed they are more used to taking off their shoes.

Customs vary. They go shoeless regardless of fashion, just as people who like to wear trendy clothes will wear a cycling helmet regardless of how that looks.

I understand in Sweden and other nordic countries, there are some parties or functions where you are expected to keep your shoes on or at least bring a change of shoes. I have heard that foreigners can sometimes get confused about which functions are meant to be shoes on and which are meant to be shoes off.

In some countries, it is far less common for people to do entertaining in their homes and so home visits are seldom formal occasions.

God Bless

Matthew