Thursday, December 25, 2008

Luke Skywalker has a Shoes-Off Rule!

I could not resist writing this post!

Not the white-clad farm boy that you see in Star Wars: A New Hope, but the fifty-year old married Jedi master that he turns into over the course of over two dozen novels that continue the adventures of the Star Wars characters.

Since I was 13, I have enjoyed reading these novels that continue the story after Return of the Jedi. This week, I decided to return to them and picked up The Joiner King, the first part of the Dark Nest trilogy.

I was thrilled to discover that Luke and his wife Mara Jade have a no-shoes rule in their home, on the planet Ossus (where removing shoes is apparently the custom). In this novel, Mara is reminded by their ten-year old son to remove her shoes.

It was a great novel, one of the best Star Wars novels I have read. My only complaint is an incident in the story where Luke Skywalker authorises the use of torture. This smacks too much of the way the USA has sailed close to the dark side. I was glad the John McCain, Republican candidate in the recent US election took a strong stand against torture.

I finally got my own place!

Sorry not to have posted anything, but I am without the internet in my new apartment.

I moved into my apartment in Stevenage last Saturday. It is great.

I was given the keys by a property inspector. He spent some time impressing upon me the need to keep the apartment clean. He noticed that I had removed my shoes on entering. While he had kept his own shoes on, he told me that I ought to make this the 'order of the day.' I suspect with all the pressure from landlords and their agents (the old deposit) to look after rented property, a lot of tenants like myself probably feel the need to impose a no-shoes rule.


I had promised myself that when I got my own place, I would buy this door mat that says 'Please Take Off Your Shoes.' It was expensive, but I did. Mine is in brick red, with black letters. You can buy your own shoes-off doormat from Mats4u (UK)

I have not had any visitors yet, but I am sure I will in good time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last Bible Study at the Pastor's House

I am leaving Hastings on Saturday, so it was my last Bible study at the pastor's house. As it was my last Bible study there, I was pleased to notice that everybody removed their shoes.

A couple of people brought slippers. A couple of people, as well as myself were barefoot (the hardy people!).

A lady who was there for the first time asked the pastor's young assistant whether she should remove her shoes. He replied:

Shoes off is good.


A very American way of putting it. It has been cool attending an American denomination.

Some Serious Theology: Are you a Tramplian or an Offalist?

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If you are an Evangelical Christian, you may be sick of the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, so let me introduce you to some new theological terms; Tramplian and Offalist.

Tramplians like to trample the carpets or flooring of their homes with their shoes on. They find it rather objectionable to be asked to remove their shoes when visiting somebody else's home.

The central principle in Tramplian theology is the freedom of the will. They believe that they should be the ones to decide whether they take their shoes off at a dinner party. Their attitude is "I decided what outfit to wear. I decided what shoes to wear. I should be able to keep them on if I like". They do not believe that a hostess should impose shoelessness on them.

Tramplians have a strong belief in the goodness of hosts. They consider that a hostess should be above all concerned for her guests wishes and convenience above keeping her home clean. They believe that if a hostess likes them enougth to invite them into her home, she will accept them with their shoes on.

Tramplians believe in the power of their own ability to keep their shoes clean. They consider themselves to be grown-up and to be careful about what they tread on. They do acknowledge that their shoes can be tainted by the corruption of dirty streets, however they hold that this can easily be dealt with by wiping their feet on their hostess' doormat. Their shoes can be restored to cleanliness by the exercise of their will.

Offalists in contrast, always remove their shoes at the door. Offalists believe in the Total Depravity of the soles of their shoes. The corruption of city streets has completely ruined the condition of their shoes, they argue, and the only hope is a change of nature for their feet, namely into slippers or clean socks. The Offalist pays heed to warnings about the health risks of pesticide, lead paint and animal excrement.

The Offalist upholds the sovereignty of the host. The hostess has been very generous in inviting her guests, however, she is sovereign over her own home and has the authority to set the rules. She will not allow anything corrupt to defile her home. Those who would enter her home must not come in their own shoes, but must meet her condition of a change into slippers or stocking feet.

The Offalist holds that the root problem of the Tramplian's theology is human pride. The Tramplian is proud of her ability to make decisions about her outfit. She is proud of her Manolos, her Prada heels or her Jimmy Choo boots. She is too proud to combine her outfit with stocking feet. She resents the idea that her hostess would not accept her in her own shoes.

The Offalist argues that if the Tramplian would only forsake her pride, she would actually find that she was far more comfortable in slippers, socks or bare feet. Her determination to remain in her stilettos will in the end hurt her feet and drag her to destruction. She may well remain outside the dinner party in the outer darkness.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nemi

Have you ever read the Nemi cartoons?

Nemi is a cartoon strip character created by the Norwegian, Lise Myhre. Nemi is a female goth who listens to Black metal and prefers fantasy stories to the real world. Her misfit status is illustrated by the fact that she is black and white in a colourful cartoon strip.

Nemi used to be printed in Terroizer, my favorite magazine. These days she is printed in the Metro newspaper. You can read them online here.

Being a fan of Black metal, I can rather identify with Nemi and her feeling of alienation from real life.

Nemi and her friends are usually in their socks when indoors. I suppose that comes with being drawn by a Norweygian artist.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Culture

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Some people in Britain and the USA have an interesting perspective on this subject. They feel happy taking off their shoes at the home of an Asian person whose culture demands removal of shoes, but consider it deeply rude for a British or American person to insist on visitors to her home removing their shoes.

There are two problems with this attitude. Firstly, there is a touch of cultural arrogance about it. It implies that the Asian custom of removing shoes is purely of spiritual or cultural significance with no practical value. Maybe Asian people are primarily concerned about keeping their homes clean! Behind the pretended respect for a foreign culture, there is the unspoken assumption that Western practice is superior.

Secondly, this attitude seems to take a rather static view of culture, seeing it as a set of chains that bind people to particular rules of behaviour. In fact, culture is dynamic and fluid, it changes over time.

It seems to me to be quite obvious that if a person of Asian descent can be considered British while keeping her home shoe-free, it is perfectly acceptable for a White British person to keep her home shoe-free.

It may be the norm in Britain and most of the USA for shoes to stay on in homes now, but this may change. In fact, I believe it probably will. Many White Americans and even British people are adopting the custom of shoes-off in homes.

We are living in a global village with increased immigration, travel and communication between different cultures. There is tremendous potential for different cultural practices to migrate across geographical boundaries.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Medical Conditions

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If you read internet discussions about the subject of the shoes-off rule, you will find countless people who claim to have a medical condition that means they must wear shoes all the time. If these discussions were representative of the population; nearly half the people in the USA have such a medical condition. I do not believe a word of it.

Yes, there are some people who do have a genuine medical reason for not removing their shoes. We must make exceptions for them.

Some people say having a shoes-off policy causes embarassment for such people because they must reveal their condition. However, this is quite unnecessary. A person with a medical condition can simply say:


I am sorry, I can't take my shoes off. Doctor's orders.



She does not need to reveal the nature of her condition. She does not need to give any embarassing details. There is really no problem here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another response to Phillip Howard

Somebody from Ascot wrote a reponse to Phillip Howard's comments on removing shoes in the Times:

“I and my visitors take our shoes off when entering a house not because of the carpets, but because of the dogs on the pavements.”


Times: Modern Manners December 6

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sex and the City- A Woman's Right to Shoes



The infamous Sex and the City episode. Not a programe I watch, but at least this episode gives a bit of publicity to my cause.

The portrayal of the shoeless hostess in this story is somewhat negative, hence anti-shoes-off people often mention it in debates.

One thing which tends to get forgotten is that the people attending the shoeless party appear to be enjoying themselves.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

More workmen

We had a couple more engineers working on the televisions in our house yesterday.

It was wonderful to see them remove their shoes every time they came into the house, even carrying their shoes upstairs to go into the loft and removing them when they came down the ladder.

I have read people complaining that workmen never take their shoes off, but a lot of the workmen seem to remove their shoes when entering homes round here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Prayer Meeting Yesterday

It was the prayer meeting at the pastor's house yesterday.

It was quite a cold night (it did not stop me wearing my flip flops though!) and the pastor said:

"If anybody has cold feet, you can put your shoes on. You don't have to take your shoes off tonight."


A polite gesture. Personally, I would assume that if people know they need to take their shoes off, they will bring slippers if they are worried about getting their feet cold. However, if somebody in socks asked to put their shoes back on when it was cold, I would not make a fuss. If they were not wearing socks, I would offer to lend them some first though.

Friday, November 28, 2008

SKY T.V. Engineer

We had an engineer come today to fix us up with satellite television. He removed his shoes without being asked.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Down South

I have been living in Hastings since August, when I moved from Worcester.

I have heard that removing shoes in homes is more common here in the south of England than it is in the north. I think that is probably true.

I have not vistited many homes in Hastings, so it is hard to tell, but it does seem that nearly all visitors either offer to remove their shoes or remove them without being asked.

Thai Protests

Looking at pictures of the protests at Bangkok airport, I noticed that the yellow-shirted protesters had removed their shoes before sitting on mats. Sensible asians.

I do think it is dreadful when you see British people sit on picnic blankets with their shoes on.

The protests in Thailand are very interesting, but I have no idea whether my sympathies are with the protesters or the government. The government were elected by the people, but then I understand that electorates can easily be manipulated by oligarchies.

A Tiler

We had a tiler in today to fit some more tiles to our kitchen.

Unlike some of the other workmen we have had, he removed his shoes when walking through our house. Maybe it is because he is a younger men. Young people seem better able to recognise the courtesy of removing shoes in homes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shoes-Off at a Party?

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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.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Answering Philip Howard

"It is your house. And you are entitled to set house rules. But it is the prime function of the hosts to make their guests feel at ease."

Removing shoes will make some people feel more at ease. They will be able to relax and not worry about dirtying their host's carpet.

If a guest has been informed about the need to remove their shoes, they will be at ease about it. Naturally, we are talking here about unexpected guests. These guests are taking more of a liberty in coming and have to take the situation as they find it. For instance, having come unexpectedly, they may have to wait a few minutes for the host to complete some household task.

I do not think that asking an unexpected guest to remove his or her footwear as he or she arrives (however politely) performs this function. This is an occasion to welcome your guest warmly, and put your customary rules on ice, and your fastidiousness in the cupboard.

Philip Howard sees the shoes-off rules as fastidiousness. I disagree with him. I think it is a lovely and very pleasent custom. Asking a guest to remove shoes is not incompatible with a warm welcome. The guest is being invited to make herself at home and become as the host and family are, shoeless.

"The golden rule of Etiket is to think of others before yourself and your carpet."

I have argued before that having a shoes-off rule is not selfish.

Shame on Philip Howard!

Philip Howard, the Times' "etiquette expert" received a question from a correspondent in Swindon about removing shoes. I don't like his answer:


Q.We always take our shoes off when entering anybody’s house. We expect the same of family and guests. If we know people are coming, we inform them by phone to bring their slippers — very nicely, of course. What if somebody unexpected turns up? What do you advise?

Philip Howard: It is your house. And you are entitled to set house rules. But it is the prime function of the hosts to make their guests feel at ease. I do not think that asking an unexpected guest to remove his or her footwear as he or she arrives (however politely) performs this function. This is an occasion to welcome your guest warmly, and put your customary rules on ice, and your fastidiousness in the cupboard. The golden rule of Etiket is to think of others before yourself and your carpet.


Modern Times November 22, Times newspaper

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bible study yesterday

Yesterday was another Bible study at the pastor's house.

I think everybody removed their shoes this time (and it was not raining), including some people who do not always remove their shoes.

The pastor's wife is of Korean origin, so she probably does have a strong preference for shoes-off, though she evidently does not insist upon it.

Jaussi Farm: ALWAYS take your shoes off!

Jaussi Farm: ALWAYS take your shoes off!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Lot: Do You Wear Shoes In Your Home?

My Lot: Do You Wear Shoes In Your Home?

The Daily Green: No Shoes Indoors for the Family! What About the Family Dog?

The Daily Green: No Shoes Indoors for the Family! What About the Family Dog?

One of my most frequent suggestions on how to reduce indoor air pollution, exposure to chemical residue, and general grime — take off your shoes before entering or just after entering your home — seems like a total no-brainer. It's common sense that you shouldn't trudge through the New York City subway (as I do), then track in that truly grim dirt and grime to where your baby is crawling. It used to require some coercing of our friends when they came over back before we all had kids to get them to go shoeless in our home. But now everyone I know with kids takes off their shoes. So much so that our preschool teacher keeps having to remind parents to keep their children's shoes on when they arrive at school. These kids just aren't accustomed to wearing shoes inside.

But there's a population of greenies who hesitate re jumping on the shoe-off bandwagon: dog owners. Why bother taking off their shoes, they ask me, if their dogs are trekking in the same gunk they're supposed to be minimizing? It's a legitimate question and there are several ways of handling it.


I love reading stuff by other people who feel strongly on this issue.

LSJ.com: Shoes off for cleanliness and health

LSJ.com: Shoes off for cleanliness and health

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Apartment Therapy Los Angeles: What Are Your House Rules?

Apartment Therapy Los Angeles: What Are Your House Rules?

You can always rely on Apartment Therapy to provide plenty of discussions about the shoes-off rule.

Martha Stewart deserves to be appointed head of the World Bank in honour of her promotion of removing shoes in homes. I think I will write to Mr Obama about it.

Arthur C Clarke (1917-2008)

The famous science fiction writer, Arthur C Clarke, had a shoes-off policy in his home in Sri Lanka. A little unsurpising given this is the custom in Sri Lanka, however, he had a sign to remind western visitors.

David Sylvester (1924-2001)

David Sylvester was a British art critic who was most famous for promoting the artists Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

I found out that he had a shoes-off policy to protect the carpet in his Notting Hill home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas is coming

Christmas is on its way and with it the party season. A lot of Christmas parties will already be in the planning stage.

With winter weather being snow if you live in New York, or rain if you live in London, you may want to have your party guests remove their shoes to protect the carpet. However, you may be concerned that female guests will want to show off their fanciest footwear as part of their outfits. You might decide, like many who have a shoes-off policy, to make an exception for your Christmas party.

I would suggest that you might want to consider requiring shoes-off at your Christmas party. The reason being that a lot of women will be attending several Xmas parties and thus be having to wear their killer heels a little more often than usual. I recently read a comment in a newspaper about the strain of the party season on female feet. Attending a shoeless party might be quite pleasent for a lot of women; it will give their feet a well deserved rest!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Visiting apartments

I was looking at apartments in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire today. I did not put down a deposit for any of them. I might stay in a trailer park temporarily, or in a Bed and Breakfast if I have to start the job soon.

All of the apartments were vacant. I was not asked by the estate agent to remove my shoes in any of them. Unsurprising, because some of them were not very clean. No doubt the floors and carpets of some of them would be cleaner if the landlords requried the estate agent to ask for shoes-off.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Refuseniks

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If asked to remove their shoes, most people are polite enough to comply. However, it is always possible that there may be some refuseniks.

If somebody refuses to remove her shoes, the host has several options:

1. Not let them in.

2. Let them in, but express one's unhappiness. Not invite them in again.

3. Let them in, express one's unhappiness, but invite them again hoping that next time they will comply.

4. Let them in and say nothing. Not invite them again.

5. Let them in and say nothing. Invite them again in hope that next time they will be more polite.

There is not right or wrong response. Whether you let them in and whether you invite them again entirely depends upon your wishes.

You have every right to refuse to admit somebody to your home. If a person is visiting to sell you a product or service, or to promote their religious organisation (usually Jehovah's Witnesses are polite enough to offer shoes-off) then you might well refuse to let them in. On the other hand, if your boss is visiting, it might be a bad idea to refuse to let her in!

If the visitor is not a close friend, but a person you have invited to dinner in order to make close acquaintance with, you have every right to never let them darken your door again. On the other hand, you may not want to loose a close friend over the issue. However, you might feel more comfortable expressing your unhappiness to a close friend than to a occasional visitor.

There is simply no right or wrong response to refuseniks.

Would you let somebody in your house if they refused to remove their shoes when asked?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Got a job

I got offered a job today. It is in Hertfordshire running a drug and alcohol project in an hospital.

Probably won't start for at least a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Treating other people with respect

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We should always do our utmost to treat other people with respect.

All of us have little things that we are sensitive about. Other people might find it hard to understand those things and may think we are oversensitive about them. However, that does not mean that we should not take those things into consideration.

For instance, some people may not like to hear bad language. If so, you should try as hard as you can not to swear when in that person's company. You may think that is silly. You may think they have the problem, not you and they should deal with it. I disagree. I think that you should respect the fact that those people do not like bad language.

Some people may not like you to smoke when there children are present. You may think that is silly, after all they are not going to be affected by you smoking just one cigarette in front of them. However, perhaps these people do not want you to set an example to your children. You should respect that.

Likewise, some people do not want shoes to be worn inside their homes. This is something important to them.

You may think this is daft. If it is for cultural reasons you may think "They are living in the UK not in China." If it is to protect the carpet you may think "Carpets are meant to be walked on." That is fine. You are entitled to your opinion. However, you should still treat their preference with respect. They are fellow human beings who have the right to their preferences and opinions as much as you do. So please don't complain if you are asked to remove your shoes in such homes.

We should also not be afraid to state our preferences. Nobody is going to know that you would rather they avoided using bad language in front of their children unless you tell them this. In the same way nobody will know that you would like shoes-off in your house unless you make it clear. There is nothing wrong with expressing how you feel and asserting your wishes. You have the right to be respected.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Encourage but not Insist?

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Some people say that it is fine to encourage people to remove their shoes, but one should not insist that they do so.

There is a fine line between insisting on people removing their shoes and encouraging people to take them off. There are a number of things one could say that are subtle encouragements:



We take our shoes off here.


You might like to take your shoes off.



These imply strongly that the host wants the guest to remove her shoes. I do not see that insisting or asking is worse than encouraging. If you encourage people to take their shoes off, then you have started from the assumption that people will be willing to take them off. By encouraging, you apply a degree of moral pressure to comply.

I think a lot of people would not want the uncertainty of just being encouraged. I was dating a girl a few years ago when I was not 100% sold out to the shoes-off rule. She asked me if she should remove her shoes. I told her that we removed our shoes but she did not have to. She was actually uncomfortable at this answer and asked me whether I wanted her to take them off or not.

Sometimes it is simpler just to be straight with people and ask them to remove their shoes. No need to beat around the bush.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Beautiful Sight

My parents were hosting an home fellowship meeting this evening.

I arrived back late after an interview in London to see several pairs of shoes by the door. Always a beautiful sight.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Real Estate Blog: Seller Preparations- Get an Entry Rug

Real Estate Blog: Seller Preparations- Get an Entry Rug

"Yes, sometimes buyers need to be beaten over the head THREE times before they get the message that I do indeed mean them, too, and that they don't have some sort of Shoe VIP status alleviating them from taking their shoes off."

TalkCeltic.net: Removing shoes before entering someone's house

TalkCeltic.net: Removing shoes before entering someone's house

Supporters of Celtic football club discuss the issue. Mind the bad language in some comments.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Standing on chairs

I go to an evening service at the local Brethren assembly.

This evening, a gentleman (about 60) was changing the time of the clock. He had stood to do this on a chair and had removed his shoes before doing. That was nice to see from somebody his age. Older people tend to be a bit less shoe-conscious in my opinion.

I do think it is a nice gesture when people remove their shoes before standing on a chair. Somebody is eventually going to sit where your feet have been.

In Japan, people will even remove their slippers before standing on a chair.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Technical Fault

This is annoying.

For some reason, the comments link for the video post below is not appearing on the main page.

If anybody wanted to make a comment on the video (you can if you like), just clikc on the title to get the post-page where you can comment.

I am sorry, I just love this video!



I know, I have posted a link to this video before, but I just love it. The girl in this video had been arrested for firing a gun.

Given all that you hear in the news about police brutality, it is rather refreshing to see a police officer trying as hard as possible to be nice to the detainee. I just love the officer's line:

I'm here to talk to you and make you feel better about life.


Maybe I am a bit cruel finding this funny.

In case anybody is wondering what this has to do with shoes-off; the girl's boots and socks are removed when she is put in the holding cell.

Party Themes

I you are hosting a party, the best way to get shoes-off from all the guests is to make it part of the theme. There are a number of possible themes that can incorporate shoe-lessness:

1950s Sock Hop

1960s Hippie party

Pyjama party

Silly Slipper party- get guests to bring the silliest slippers they can find.

Hawaian Night

Japanese Evening

Ancient Greek themed pary

Ancient Egyptian themed party

Flintstones party


If anybody can think of any others, please suggest them in the comments.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Well done

We had a tiler working in our kitchen today. He needed to go into the lounge to fetch something that had been stored there. He removed his shoes before doing so.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bare Feet

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In the UK and the USA a lot of people feel a sense of disgust and abjection towards feet. Of course, in many Asian countries, the foot is considered to be unclean. However, this is in connection with the fact that the foot touches the ground. Thus, shoes are considered to be far more unclean than the naked foot. In an Asian home, barefeet are acceptable, but shoes are not. This is actually the very opposite of the western abjection of the foot.

It is very common in internet discussions about shoes-off in homes for the subject of barefeet to be raised. It is argued that barefeet are disgusting, more so than the dirt on peoples' shoes. Of course, if you do feel that feet are disgusting, you can still ask visitors to remove their shoes if you lend then flip flops or socks to wear. Angie mentioned this in a previous post.

It is very likely that the sense of disgust about barefeet will decline. Sandals and flip flops have become incredibly popular in the UK and the USA. People are becoming more used to exposed feet. And ladies (and maybe some men) are spending good money on keeping them looking nice.

The argument that feet are more unhygienic than shoes is quite wrong. Unless a person has been going barefoot outdoors, they will not have been picking up the awful things that the soles of shoes pick up (though sandal-shod feet do get a bit dusty). You may think your feet are disgusting, however, you undoubtedly have more germs on your hands than on your feet. Feet are usually remarkably cleaner than the average pair of hands.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The positive side of removing shoes at airport security

(Evidently there is still plenty of fear about flight safety- there is talk in Europe about implementing body scanners that view passengers in the nude.)

In the USA, unlike in most European countries, it is mandatory for passengers to remove shoes at airport security. However, I understand that the TSA is experimenting with x-ray devices that are hoped will make shoe-removal unnecessary.

Although many people complain and complain about having to take their shoes off at the airport, personally I see something positive in this bizarre practice that we have experienced over the last few years. I think it will be a little sad if removing shoes is finally phased out.

People in the west put so much effort into construting their professional and social identities. For many people their money and profession is such a fundamental part of the image they project about themselves. That is why the old drinks party question "what do you do?" is so important.

Yet at airport security, all this is stripped away. No matter how rich you are, no matter how respectable your profession, or your celebrity status, all must stand in stocking feet before the men and women who work in airport security. As I have said before, coming through airport security is the nearest thing that most people experience to being arrested- pockets are emptied, belts and shoes are removed and one is powerless before the agents of the state. It is at the airport that the fundamentally coercive nature of modern society is revealed.

It is at airport security that we become truly human in our vulnerability.

The identities and masks of social status are stripped away at the security checkpoint. The brogues of the well-heeled businessman are removed to reveal socks with holes. The Jimmy Choo stilettos of a footballer's wife are removed to reveal cracked heels.

At this place we reveal our true selves and our frail humanity. We are allthe same in our vulnerability and human weakness.

Perhaps there is something comical in it too. Perhaps the experience of the horrors of terrorism has enabled us to find something funny, a light relief in the incongruity of the great and the good all standing shoeless.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two fictional people

Giles

Giles is a lawyer who lives in Surrey. He lives with his wife and two teenage children.

He enjoys golfing. He attends his local parish church and is a member of the Conservative party. However, his main passion is for his Harley Davidson motorcycle, which his wife occasionally permits him to ride.

Giles has a shoes-off policy in his home. He and his wife decided upon this some time after they moved into a new house with cream coloured carpets. They had not intended to impose this rule, but after a number of black marks started to appear not long after they moved in and they received a bill for a professional professional carpet cleaning job, they felt they had no choice.

Some of their guests were a little surprised by the new rule when invited to frequent dinner parties there and some of Giles' wife's friends occasionally looked a little sad when leaving their expensive shoes at the door. However, most of them have become used to it and a number have followed suit in introducing a shoes-off rule. Many of them bring slippers when visiting Giles and his wife.

Giles' teenage son and daughter needed a little coaxing to get used to the rule. The daughter occasionally makes faces when reminded to remove her shoes, especially when she has her friends over.

Victoria

Victoria lives in in London with her partner and their two small children. Victoria and her partner run a vegetarian cafe and restaurant.

Victoria has pink hair and sevaral facial piercings. She is very keen on punk rock, particularly 80s crustcore type bands. She took part in many protests against the Iraq war and was more recently protesting about the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Victoria has a shoes-off policy in their house. Victoria is not the most houseproud of women and tends not to worry a lot about dirt. However, while travelling in south-east asia before they had children, Victoria and her partner came into contact with the practice of shoe removal. Victoria quite liked the practice, as she enjoyed going barefoot and thought it would bring a slightly oriental flavour to their home. Being very concerned about the environment, Victoria feels glad she adopted the shoes-off policy before having children. She is concerned about the effects of toxic chemicals and pollution on her children.

Victoria frequently invites friends to her home, hence their is often a vast pile of shoes and sandals at the door. Most of her friends are easy-going people, many of whom enjoyed going barefoot, liek Victoria. However, a few of them favour combat boots that take a little while to unlace.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Being straight with guests

I would argue that having a 'don't ask but encourage' policy with shoes is not really any more polite than having a shoes-off rule.

Sometimes it is good for people to know where they stand.

It did occur to me that having a 'don't ask' policy might cause resentment and division amongst guests at party.

The people who take their shoes off may feel superior to those who have kept their shoes on. Even worse they may feel resentful of those people who have kept their shoes on.

A bigger problem is the embarrassment caused to guests who have kept their shoes on when they realise that shoes-off is preferred. Discovering that shoes-off is preferred when they have been walking about the house shod for an hour might make them feel rather awkward.

Hospitality part 2

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Guests are aware when they visit a home that the hosts have boundaries that cannot be crossed.

Guests know or should know that they cannot go wandering about upstairs, looking in their hosts' bedrooms. They ought to be careful in conversation that they do not mention subjects that may cause offence to the host. If the host has strong views on a subject, it is best not to argue with him or her. Guests know that they cannot bring their pet dog to somebody else's home unless the host has expressly said this is acceptable. Even if the host is an animal lover, permission to bring a pet dog must be sought.

It is now recognised by most people that when you visit the home of a non-smoker, they should not smoke inside. If they need to smoke, they should put their coat on and go outside. There are still some people, probably mostly from the upper strata of British society who think it is rude to forbid smoking in one's home. However, this view is very much in a minority.

It is important to recognise these boundaries when one visits a home and if hosts prefer, even if they do not insist on it, removal of shoes, this should be complied with by guests. To ignore this boundary is, as stated in the previous post, taking hospitality for granted.

Some people would object to comparisons with smoking pointing out the health risks of smoking, compared with the minor ill effects to health of wearing shoes past the door. However, it is not so much the health risks that should deter smoking in a non-smoking home. Nobody is going to get lung cancer because a few guests smoked at a dinner party. They are unlikely to even develope a cough because of it. No, the reason one should not smoke in a non-smoking home is simply because the smells and mess are not convenient for such hosts. It is simply impolite. Likewise it is not convenient to impose the dirt and dust of your shoes in the home of a person who would object to it.

Some would argue that it is polite for guests to remove their shoes if this is what the hosts do, but it is impolite for the host to request shoes-off. They feel that it is better to leave the responsiblity of politness to guests. To my mind, this is not quite logical. If guests have the responsibility to comply with the preference of their hosts, then it is surely quite reasonable for guests to make their preference known.

Part of the reason why a verbal request for shoes-off may be necesary is because etiquette is so uncertain and in such a state fo flux on this point. While it may be a good idea to remove one's shoes when one is welcomed by a shoe-less host, as this may be a shoes-off home, such a gesture might be taken as impolite by some. There are some who go shoe-less in their home who would be surprised by guests going shoe-less. It is probably necessary for those who desire shoe-removal to make their wish known.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Times are changing

I remember an occasion, when I was about ten years old, when a middle-aged babysitter removed her shoes while in our house.

I think it did surpise me to see an adult removing her shoes. I think in my mind at the time, children removed their shoes but adults always kept them on. Presumably, that was my experience.

These days I am quite used to seeing adults removing their shoes when visiting homes. So I think habits are changing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hospitality

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There are some who think that asking guests to remove their shoes is contrary to the principle of hospitality.

This is a culturally relative matter. Albania and Turkey are countries in which hospitality is greatly valued and yet it is expected in those countries that guests remove their shoes.

The shoes-on people argue that a hostess should primarily be concerned with her guests comfort and not with the state of her carpet or floor. However, most guests will feel more comfortable after removing their shoes. They may, admittedly, be uncomfortable because they are embarassed about their feet or they feel their shoes are part of their outfit. Those problems can be dealt with by letting guests know in advance that shoes-off is expected and so they can either bring slippers or plan their outfits with bare or stocking feet in mind. Any embarassment should be minimal if guests are not taken by surprise.

In my opinion, those who insist that guests should be allowed to keep their shoes on take hospitality for granted.

When I get my own house or apartment, I may well invite you. I will give you the best seat. I will cook for you. I will serve you the best food I can. I will give you whatever you want to drink, whether it be alcoholic or not. I will give you my undivided attention. I will entertain you with conversation. If you live nearby, I will drive you home in my car. If not, I will let you stay the night. I will wash up the dishes and cutelry you have used and clean up any mess you make. Given that I am willing to do all this for you, do you really think it is so unreasonable that I ask you to take your shoes off?
Posted by Celestial Fundie

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

This week's shoeless Bible study

I was at the Bible study at the pastor's house tonight.

There are two meetings at the pastor's house, the prayer meeting and the Bible study. The Bible study is held in a carpeted room and nearly everybody takes their shoes off. The prayer meeting, however, is held in a room with wooden floors. A few people who attend both meetings remove their shoes for the Bible study, but not the prayer meeting.

A lot of people attend the Bible study and the carpeted room gets very crowded. A lady was sat in a seat that was right next to the fireplace so that her feet were on its marble base (not sure what the proper word is for the base of a fireplace). To avoid getting cold feet she carried her shoes into the room and wore them while she was sat down. But she took them off when she got up again.

Being the obsessive compulsive that I am, I got distracted from the Bible study by wondering whether a lady sat near to me was in slippers or wearing shoes. I am terrible.

White screen photos

At the house I visited yesterday, there were some white screen photographs of the family.

These white screen photos people are always either in socks or bare feet, presumably to avoid making marks on the white background.

It is interesting that the popularity of these kind of photographs means that families are being portrayed with their shoes off.

Visiting different houses

I lead a Bible study at my parents' home fellowship group yesterday (they go to a different church to me).

The hosts were shoeless and there was a large shoe rack in the entrance.

Most of the people who attended the meeting removed their shoes.

Manners are changing. Years ago at such a meeting the hosts would have worn their shoes and the vistitors would have kept their shoes on.

The expectation is increasingly shifting in the direction of everybody being shoeless in a home.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The relationship between host and guest

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Some people seem to see the shoes-off rule as an unfair restriction on the freedom of guests. I think that is a very sad attitude.

I rather see the removing of shoes as a beautiful and peaceful exchange between host and guest.

The guest removes her shoes when she enters the home. She shows respect to the house she is entering. She does not treat it like a restaurant where her custom is king. Nor does she treat it as her own home, where she may do as she pleases. She has entered the home of another family and she must respect the fact that their lives are lived here.

The hostess is in turn delighted by the respect that the guest shows her. In removing her shoes, the guest has entered into the environment of her family. The hostess will treat her guest with all the courtesy and kindness that she would show to her own family members. She will take care to look after her to the utmost while she remains under her roof. She will serve her the best food, give her the best seat. If necessary she will drive her home in her car or let her stay the night.

In removing her shoes, the guest becomes like the hostess, who is already shoeless. She identifies with the hostess who has welcomed her into her home. In their both becoming shoeless, the host and guest enter a fellowship and unity. They are both without shoes; they are equals. This is true friendship.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Do so-called "Etiquette Experts" live on a different planet?

In general, so-called "etiquette experts" look unfavourably on shoes-off policies.

They sometimes grudgingly allow that one can ask guests to remove their shoes, but with the qualification that one should provide guests with slippers.

I think this shows they are on another planet. I know there are many countries like Russia and Japan, where guests will be given slippers by the host, but whenever I have sought peoples' opinion on borrowed slippers, whether online or in person they tell me they really don't like the idea of borrowing slippers.

It seems clear to me that while people in Japan and Russia may not mind wearing somebody else's slippers, people in the UK, and probably the USA too, would prefer socks or bare feet to borrowed slippers. The fact that so-called "etiquette experts" are oblivious to this shows that they are out of touch with the modern world.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More celebrities with shoes-off rules

Reese Witherspoon Has House Rules

It appears that Reese Witherspoon, the star of Legally Blonde has a shoes-off rule in her home.

Tobey Maguire, star of Spider-Man, has a partial shoes-off rule for an uncommon reason- he is vegan and will not abide leather in his home. An odd policy, but as I have said we have to respect the choices that people make.

(Tobey Maguire's leather ban)

South Korean Nightclubs

I have read that some South Korean nighclubs require patrons to remove their shoes. That sounds cool. I suppose it would prevent one's toes being squashed on the dance floor by sharp heels.

I can't imagine a British nightclub having a shoes-off policy. The few nightclubs I have been to (I would not want to encourage people to go to nightclubs) were pretty dirty places. You might not want to be shoeless in them. Of course, one occasionally saw girls going shoeless on the dance floor, but I am not sure they would have taken their shoes off if they had not been drinking.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Power of Blogging

I was listening on the radio to a feature about a blogger who had apparently first suggested the idea of nominating Sarah Palin (Go Sarah!) as vice presidential candidate. He had promoted this idea through a blog entirely devoted to it. Palin had apparently telephoned him to congratulate him after receiving the nomination.

This blogger argued that it is possible for bloggers like himself to have a huge influence. Minor blogs get read by more popular bloggers and these get read by the household name bloggers, who in turn are read by the media.

It has been my aim with this blog to promote the lifestyle choice of keeping a 'no shoes allowed' home. I am thankful that unlike this political blogger I am not trying to achieve some incredible task. If I were trying to get a politician nominated to office, I would either succeed or not succeed (and it is not often that one achieves success in that). I may not succeed in making the shoes-off rule as common in Britain as it is in Sweden or Canada, but if I can persuade a five or six English, Scots, Americans or Australians to leave the shoes at the door, and ask visitors to do the same, I have achieved something.

So how does one have an influence through the blogsphere?

The first thing is to have a blog that is focused. When I first started blogging, I put my shoes-off posts on my personal blog. However, I decided as this was my favorite issue, I would be more effective by having an whole blog dedicated to the subject. Hence, if anybody puts 'shoes off' or 'please remove shoes' into a search engine, they are likely to find their way here.

The other thing to do is to post comments on other people's blogs, especially the big blogs, as that way people find your blog. I find this a bit tricky because it is time-consuming. I don't tend to read major bloggers much. I comment on the blogs of people who mention the subject of removing shoes and I visit blogs that interest me (fundamentalist Christian blogs).

I have been noticed by other bloggers and occasionally somebody will link to this blog in a post.

If any readers would like to set up their own pro- shoes off blog, I will happily promote it here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on personal autonomy

In the last post I was talking about personal autonomy and children being forced to share.

Discovering personal autonomy is such an important part of being an individual. Obviously, being required to follow rules is a limitation on one's autonomy.

I think sometimes adults can harm children by imposing on them all kinds of rules that do not necessarilly serve a purpose. But some rules are necessary. Being part of a community or family involves one in a set of relationships that must have boundaries.

In my opinion, a no-shoes rule is a perfectly good rule that serves a useful purpose. That said, a child who is asked to follow that rule may not necessarilly have chosen to be under that obligation. The reasons for the rule may have been very patientlty explained, but she may still prefer not to be subject to it. Of course, if the child has grown up with that rule it is less likely to seem a burden. However, it may be that her parents decide to adopt it when she is older or a teenager. I read a discussion forum about a step-mother who's new step-daughter hated having to follow the rule in her new home.

Ultimately in life, there are some boundaries that you have to accept and stick to, and in that situation, the child is going to have to get used to the rule. However, there are two possible ways that the child's autonomy can be preserved.

First, the child can be given a choice when it comes to indoor footwear. She can opt for socks, bare feet or be offered a range of styles of slippers. She can designate a pair of flip flops as indoor footwear. The parent might allow the child the option of designating a pair of outdoor shoes as indoor footwear; however, dark soles cna mark flooring and heels will cause wear. The parent might also be concerned that visitors might be confused.

Secondly, you could allow the child the option of wearing shoes in her room. Her room is her own personal space in which she can express herself. Of course, it is your house and you paid for the carpet in your son or daugheter's room. However, if you are giving the child responsibility over her own room. you could give her that freedom. That would give her a stronger sense of autonomy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sharing

Natural Attachment: Sharing is caring

Michele James Parham put up an interesting post about children and sharing. She takes the view that children should not be forced to share their possessions by adults. Having rights over property is an important part of realising personal autonomy.

I agree with her. Children should have the freedom to develop personal autonomy, which is such a vital part of being an individual.

Part of being personal autonomy is having boundaries. Having the power to say 'No!' If you cannot say 'No!' you have no control over your life.

It is so important to respect the boundaries that other people set. Every person deserves to have their free choices respected.

One of the boundaries that some people set is too require people entering their homes to remove their shoes. Whether that is for religious reasons, to protect their children's health or just to keep the carpet clean, it is a choice that other people should respect.

There are some people who treat this choice with contempt. A common thing you will read in forums discussing the shoes-off rule is "If you don't want people wearing shoes in your house, don't invite any guests." If you take that attitude why should anybody invite you to their home?

I actually think the people who object to the shoes-off rule are rather like adults who force childen to share. They fail to see that nobody is under an obligation to provide hospitality to anybody. Being invited to somebody's home is a privilege, not a right and if you are, you must respect the boundaries of the hostess.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We British are not perfect

I happen to believe that the British Empire was the greatest empire in history and that it gave much good to the world. However, it was not perfect and it contained much injustice.

British rule in Burma was a somewhat bloody affair. It was made worse by the habit of British colonizers visiting Buddhist temples and refusing to remove their shoes. The disrespect of the British in not complying with the tradition of removing shoes aroused an entire campaign of opposition to British rule.

It is sad to read of British people showing such a lack of respect. Whatever your religion, if you visit a holy place where shoe-removal is expected, you should comply. If you don't want to take your shoes off, don't visit.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How to silently remind your guests to remove their shoes

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1. Cast your eyes downwards at the guest's feet for a few seconds.

2. Make a faint smile with gritted teeth.

3. Look down at the guest's feet again.

4. When the guest looks down, nod.

This is may not to work on first-time guests. This is best for reminding people who already know you don't want shoes in your house.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bible study, Ugg boots and church ministers

I went to the Bible study at our American pastor's house again yesterday. Again, everybody removed their shoes.

A girl explained to the pastor's wife that the Ugg boots she was wearing were slippers. I had heard that some people use Ugg boots as slippers, but I had never seen anybody doing that. Girls always seem to wear them outdoors. The first time I saw Ugg boots I thought they looked hideous, but I have gotten used to them. But I simply cannot understand girls wearing Ugg boots on hot summer days. Their feet must be so sweaty.

The pastor's house is the first shoes-off house I have visited in the UK (remember my definition? 'A home where there is a manifest expectation that shoes will be removed.'), though it is interesting that the occupants are Americans.

I remember a while ago reading a discussion thread about shoes-off policies. A commenter on the thread mentioned a vicar she knew who had a strict shoes-off policy on account of the many visitors he and his wife had.

Religious ministers are a group of people who are likely to have more visitors to their homes than other people. For that reason, I think that they would be very wise to adopt the shoes-off rule. If you are a Christian, please think about your church minister's carpet or floor when you visit him. They often do not earn much money so they can't afford to get regular carpet cleaning or replace their floors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Neat Freaks?

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It is commonly thought that people who insist on shoes-off in their homes are neat freaks who are obsessed with keeping their homes clean and tidy.

I dare say that there are some people who prefer shoes-off who are genuine neat freaks. And those who are Obsessive-Compulsive about cleanliness may well be among the shoes-off community.

Of course this is culturally relative. In Japan it is thought that money is dirty and unhygeinic because it is handled by untold numbers of people. Japanese people also regard any objects placed in bathrooms, such as books or ornaments to be 'dirty'. A person in a western society who held such attitudes would almost certainly be regarded as Obsessive-Compulsive.

I have known a number of people who really were excessive in their desire to keep their homes clean. Interestingly, these people did not require visitors to remove their shoes. I suspect that they probably spent so much time in cleaning their homes that they were happy to waste time cleaning up afer their visitors.

Many people who keep their homes shoe-free are not domestic goddesses who like nothing better than spending whole days doing spring cleaning. Rather, they are busy working people who have far better things to do. They do not want to clean up for the sake of it, but they know that living in a clean environment is healthier and far more pleasent. Knowing that time is precious they would rather keep the mess to the minimum and spend as little time as possible cleaning up after their visitors. Prevention is better than cure.

Nobody needs a house that is spotless, but it is pointless to allow dirt and dust to accumulate when it could easily be kept out by leaving shoes at the door. A floor is meant to be walked upon, but that does not mean that one should not reduce wear and tear and save time and money.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ouch!

One thing on some people's minds when you talk about shoes-off in homes is stubbing of toes. Obviously, if you are worried about stubbing your toes, you can wear slippers and if you let guests know about your policy, they can bring their own.

Believe it or not, your feet do get tougher if you let them. As I am barefoot at home and nearly always in flip flops when outside, my toes get stubbed a lot. But it happens so often that it barely hurts that much any more.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Housewarming Party

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If you are moving into a new house or apartment and you want to make a clean start and have a no-shoes rule, you have an ideal opportunity to kick it off with an housewarming party.

The best thing to do is to indicate clearly on invitations that you will be requiring shoes-off. That way people will have no surpises. They can bring slippers, wear clean socks with no holes or a floaty skirt that looks great with barefeet (Trinny and Susanah actually recommend that hostesses of dinner parties should wear a long skirt with barefeet or slippers).

Having an housewarming party is such an excellent way to send the message that your new house will be a shoe-free zone. Even those of your friends who do not come will see on the invitation that you want shoes-off.

Requiring shoes-off at a housewarming party sends the message that you are really serious about the rule and that it is not just an exception for a wet winter evening. After all, some people with shoeless homes actually make an exception and allow shoes-on in parties. However, having shoes-off at an housewarming makes it clear that you want the house to stay as it was when you bought it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A very shoeless Bible study

Tonight I attended the church Bible study, which is held at the pastor's house.

Everybody remove their shoes and were in socks or bare feet. As most of the congregation attended, the hallway looked remarkably like a shoe-shop.

I think this is an excellent courtesy. If a home is hosting a large gathering every week, the carpet will be ruined unless people take their shoes off.

In the cells







If you are arrested, you will probably have to be a polite guest and remove your shoes before entering the cells.

Children

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I am always a little surprised when I see children wearing shoes at home, whether on television or in person. It surprises me because when I was a child, my parents expected me to remove my shoes at the door. When I visited my friends' homes, their parents often expected me to take my shoes off. So it always seems a little strange when I see children keeping their shoes on at home.

The practise of removing shoes was expected until I reached the age of about 12. My parents became less stringent about it as I got older. Occasionally this house rule would be revived in later years. It was restored when I was 21 when my parents and I moved to a house with cream carpets, though they were not consistent in keeping to it.

There are some homes, in the UK, where the hosts will expect the children of guests to remove their shoes, but would not expect it of adult guests. Some guests will insist that their children remove their shoes without removing their own. I can understand why some people may be more concerned about children's shoes; children do tend to be less careful about what they step in and are more likely to run around in long and wet grass. However, adults should never forget that their own shoes pick up an awful lot of less noticeable dirt. There is also the fact that children learn to follow rules better when adults act consistently. There is a certain amount of 'do as I say, not do as I do' in the requirement of shoes-off for children only.

Some childcare experts are of the opinion that children should wear shoes to the minimum necessary and therefore recommend shoes-off indoors for health reasons.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A prayer meeting at the pastor's house

Since moving to Hastings, I have decided which church I shall be attending.

Yesterday I attended a men's prayer meeting at the house of the pastor (an American).

Apart from one person, everybody who attended removed their shoes. The shoe-racks and huge shoe colletion by the door suggested that the pastor and his wife preferred shoes-off, even if not necessarilly strict about it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Good Behaviour in a Shopping Mall

In the Hastings shopping mall today, I saw a girl put her feet up on a bench. She had removed her boots before doing so.

I also saw a young man in a clothes shop who had removed his shoes before setting up a window display.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Smelly Feet

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The issue of 'smelly feet' is often raised as an argument against the Shoes-Off rule.

In Western society there seems to be a lot of paranoia about the phenomena of 'smelly feet'. I think this is simply a result of people not removing their shoes very often. Your feet will actually smell a lot less if you remove your shoes regularly. It is unfortunate that we in Britain have not yet reached the civilised heights of Finland, where it is acceptable to remove shoes in business meetings and on trains (not that people do not do so in Britain, but it is frowned upon somewhat).

Nevertheless, I think most people worry too much about this issue. People imagine their feet smell far more than they actually do. I have met very few people who let off much of an aroma after removing their shoes, and most of them were people who did not wash and change their socks regularly.

If people know in advance that they need to remove their shoes, they can make sure they wear clean socks, or even better, bring slippers with them. If they are especially worried about it, they can use some of those fancy foot deoderents.

Feet wil smell a lot less if people wear sandals. Sneakers are best avoided in favour of leather shoes.

Some people will say 'I would rather put up with a dirty floor than people's smelly feet.' Well, I guess people decide on their own priorities. However, stinking feet will leave with the guests. A dirty floor will not. Nor will the dust they brought in on their shoes, and that is very bad for your health.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Young Japan Enthusiasts

The other day I visited Hastings museum (which is currently hosting an exhibition of some wonderful Japanese prints). There were a collection of children's drawings on display. These were entries in a competition for children to draw Manga style art. It is interesting that young children now have the cultural knowledge to recognise and copy the Japanese Manga style.

Children today are exposed to a lot of Japanese culture through films, toys, cartoons, comics and computer games. One of the biggest Japanese fads was the inane Pokemon phenomena.

I remember some years ago, switching on the television and finding that a Pokemon cartoon was on, I noticed that the characters had all removed their shoes at the door of a house and the hostess was barefoot. I don't know if the characters were supposed to be Japanese or American; they looked white to me (perhaps a helpful reader can clarify), but whatever the case, the Japanese custom of removing shoes in homes was being portrayed in the cartoon.

Yesterday I was in the supermarket and heard a boy of about 12 or 13 years asking his mother if they could have sushi for dinner. I was impressed with the boy's cultural fluency (though I am sure his nose-ringed mother was the sort of middle-class Hippy type that would steer her children in that direction- perhaps she even kept a shoe-free home).

It seems clear to me that a lot of boys between the ages of 10 and 20 have a real enthusiasm for Japan that they have gained through Japanese cultural imports. Such boys would dearly love to visit the country (though they might not enjoy the standard tourist temple tour). A lot of girls share this enthusiasm for Japan too.

With all this exposure and enthusiasm for Japan, we can be confident that the next generation will be far more disposed to have a no-shoes policy in their homes.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Athlete's Foot

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An unpleasent fungal infection.

A lot of people mention Athlete's Foot as an argument against people having a shoes-off policy. However, this is a quite unnecessary concern.

Athlete's Foot is generally associated with swimming pools and changing rooms. It is possible to catch Athlete's Foot on one's barefeet at a swimming pool or in a locker room. However, recent research indicates that this is not so likely as was previously thought.

Most importantly, the reason people catch Athlete's Foot in those places is not because people there are barefoot, but because the fungus needs a warm and wet environment. People get exposed to the fungus in the damp conditions. If they fail to dry their feet, the fungus is very comfortable and even more so if the victim puts on sweaty socks.

The fungus will not survive long on the clean, dry floor or carpet of a person's home and so you are very unlikely to catch Athlete's Foot in somebody's house, even if the owner has the condition.

What is more, people who are not wearing socks are likely to put on sandals when they leave, as opposed to closed shoes. Thus, they will not create the right environment for the condition to thrive.

Of course, if you are worried about it, you can always bring some slippers or socks when you visit a shoes-off home.

People who have a shoes-off policy ought to let their visitors know in advance and be willing to lend a pair of clean socks, if not slippers.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The American presidential contest

As I have mentioned before, Barack Obama, the Democrat candidate is from Hawaii where shoes are always removed at the door.

The Republican candidate, John McCain has now chosen as his running mate an Alaskan, Sarah Palinn. While removing shoes may not be as universal in Alaska as in Hawaii, I believe it is pretty common there, as with many cold weather places.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dr Park- An Allergist’s Nightmare: The Micro-Poop Theory

Dr Park- An Allergist’s Nightmare: The Micro-Poop Theory

An excellent post.

"Many people assume walking over lobby carpeting or the door mat
in front of your apartment would have wiped any residual
poop particles off your shoe. But think about this: if you
step in poop and take a towel and wipe it off vigorously,
is it really off? Even if it’s a wet towel, can you be
truly certain that your shoes are truly free of all fecal
matter?

This situation doesn’t just apply to dog poop. This also
applies to human phlegm, gum, dog urine, bird poop,
chemicals, car oil, pollutants, bacteria and molds and
whatever else you might find on the sidewalks of New York
City at any time of the day. How many different kinds of
germs or chemicals, organic or non-organic, are still stuck
to the bottom of your shoe when you enter your apartment?"



This post also explains why the Hygeine Hypothesis (the theory that too much cleanliness causes allergies) is not relevant when it comes to dirt on your shoes.

Sometimes it is really hard to find stuff to post about...

Some drama students in Prague produced an utterly incomprehensible adaptation of HP Lovecraft's horror story, 'The Thing on the Doorstep.' As they are in the Czech Republic (a shoes-off country), they are shoeless for a good deal of their performance:

You Tube: "The Thing on the Doorstep" From HP Lovecraft

You Tube: "The Thing on the Doorstep" From HP Lovecraft Part 2

You Tube: "The Thing on the Doorstep" From HP Lovecraft Part 3

You Tube: "The Thing on the Doorstep" From HP Lovecraft Part 4

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An house in Poole

I went to Poole yesterday for a job interview (where my sister lives).

I noticed an house that had an handwritten note on their door requesting people to remove their shoes.

This is actually the first time I have seen a shoes-off sign here in the UK, though I have heard about people doing that in this country.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

5 Simple Tips To Keep Your Tile Clean and Fresh

5 Simple Tips To Keep Your Tile Clean and Fresh

Tile may be relatively easy to clean, but it is still a good idea to take your shoes off and ask others to do so.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

House churches

I am personally of the opinion that Christian churches ought to meet in homes rather than special buildings. That is how the earliest Christians met.

There is an article here:

How to have a participatory house church meeting (PDF)

This talks about some of the issues in hosting house churches. It points out that those hosting a house church meeting should lay down some house rules, which can include a rule about removing shoes.

Another article on house churches makes the same point; that it is fine for the host family to ask those attending to remove their shoes.

A family that are gracious enough to allow church meetings in their home should not have to suffer their carpets to be ruined or to have to do twice as much cleaning as everybody else. Those attending should show the respect of removing their shoes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Should one provide slippers for guests?

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In some Eastern European and Asian countries, guests change from their shoes into slippers provided by the host.

Some argue that if you intend to have a shoes-off policy in your home, you should keep some slippers for guests to wear. It is argued that this will make them feel more comfortable and prevent embarassments such as foot odour and holes in socks.

I am not so sure about this one. If slippers are provided, then they must either be disposable plastic slippers or else slippers that can go in the washing machine. It would be quite unreasonable to expect guests to wear slippers that have been worn by somebody else that day. I am not sure whether most slippers are machine washable. Some guests might not even trust you that they really have been cleaned and may prefer to stay in bare or stocking feet.

I think the practise of providing guest slippers might be just a bit too weird for British. Many British people will have been to a house where shoes-off was required, but not many people will have been offered guest slippers to wear, unless it was in another country. I think a lot of English guests would prefer to go barefoot, rather than wear slippers that are not their own.

I think it is a good idea to buy slippers for family and regular visitors and keep them at your house. These should be worn only by the person they are provided for. Hopefully, one's family and close friends would be delighted by this consideration.

Providing clean socks is a different matter. I would suggest keeping a supply of clean socks in different sizes by the door for guests who are not comfortable going barefoot.

I think it is very sensible to let visitors know in advance that one has a shoes-off rule in one's home. That way, they can be sure to wear socks without holes or bring their own slippers if they prefer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's evidently what young married couples do

My parents were hosting their home fellowship meeting in their house. I decided to attend, having moved away from mine in Worcester.

In their group, just like mine there is a young married couple who remove their shoes without being asked. It is evidently what young married couples do.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home fellowship meeting

I went to my last home fellowship meeting, before I move to Hastings, Sussex.

The group had a walk which ended at the home of a young married couple. This particular couple take their shoes off at the house where we normally meet and had a shoe rack by the door. As the weather was wet, keeping shoes on would have been unforgiveable. Normally it is onlly the younger members of the group who unshod.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Concern

With the news of the fighting in Georgia, I do hope our Georgian reader is safe and well.

You have chosen to remain anonymous, but if you are reading this, please reassure us all. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Degrees of Firmness part 2

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I think for friends I would go for the very direct no.6 (Could you take your shoes off, please?) and for people I did not know, I would use the more restrained no.4 (Are you alright with taking your shoes off?).

It may be that you are just too shy to use the more direct requests. However, you might find that the softest approach no.1 works a lot of the time. If you are barefoot and there are a lot of shoes by the door, you may get the right reaction just by saying:


You can take your shoes off here, if you like.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

On the train

I tend to remove my shoes during long train journeys, for the sake of comfort. That is not something that many people do here in the UK. I expect some people would regard it as anti-social.

I was pleased to find on the way back from London today, that I was sat next to a young man who had removed his shoes.

Interestingly, although he was wearing sneakers without socks, I could not smell anything offensive. I think people do exagerrate how much feet tend to smell.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Degrees of Firmness

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1. You can take your shoes off here if you like.

2. We take our shoes off here.

3. We do like visitors to take their shoes off.

4. Are you alright with taking your shoes off?

5. You don't mind taking your shoes off, do you?

6. Could you take your shoes off, please?

7. Take your shoes off, please.

8. Shoes off.

9. Shoes off now!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Courage

The Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn died yesterday.

Solzhenitsyn claimed that the greatest problem in the West was a loss of 'civil courage.' I am not sure that I agree with this great man, but I would say that courage is a desirable virtue.

I want to encourage those who remove their shoes at the door but who are afraid to ask visitors to do the same. Don't be afraid. Take courage. People are mostly not going to be offended if you ask them nicely. It only takes a few people to change a culture.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Choice

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Some people are of the opinion that it is very important that guests have the choice of whether to keep their shoes on or not.

However, it is not as simple as that. Some choices may impose on the choices of others.

Some visitors may want to take their shoes off, but may fear that doing so will be considered rude. Being informed that shoes-off is encouraged will be a great welcome for these people.

The shoes-on folks might then argue, "Yes, but you can still let people keep their shoes on without imposing on the people who prefer to go shoeless."

However, this is not the case. Firstly, those people who want to take their shoes off may fear, if there are lots of other guests, particularly at a party, that their feet may get squashed by other peoples' shoes. In a crowded party, it can be hard to avoid having people tread on your toes.

Secondly, people who take their shoes off will prefer to walk on a floor that is cleaner. In fact, there is another issue here, as Angie pointed out in a previous post. Some guests will enjoy sitting on the floor. And sitting on the floor is a much more pleasent experience when it is clean. So allowing guests the choice of wearing shoes imposes on those who like to sit on the floor.

The simple truth is that no host can please everybody. However, there are far more good reasons to insist on shoes coming off at the door than for allowing shoes to stay on. Let guests chose between slippers, socks ot barefeet. That is choice enough.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Human Behaviour

Ever notice how when people take their shoes off other people do the same?

At the cineam yesterday, the coupe sitting next to me took their shoes off while watching the film. I took off mine and I think later one of the friends I went with took off hers.

The next day at church I removed my flip flops and left them off during the service. The friend who sat down next to me also took off her sandals.

Us human beings do have a habit of copying each other.

I believe as more people adopt the practice of removing their shoes at the door and asking visitors to take their shoes off, more people will copy them. Quite a number of people in internet discussions have commented that after they adopted a shoes-off policy, their friends did the same.

Being considerate at the cinema

Yesterday, I watched Batman: Dark Knight at the cinema with some friends.

I had not realised how long it would be and ended up needing the toilet half-way through. It was very embarassing walking down the ailse in my noisy flip flops.

After going to the loo, I noticed a girl who also went to the toilet. She had taken off her shoes so as not to disturb anybody. This seemed a really considerate thing to do, so I took off mine when returning to my seat.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I wrote a Knol!

Shoes off at the door?

I took advantage of Google's new Knol feature.

We are the makers of manners

My fellow blogger Wayne just left a great comment:

The reminds me of what I consider to be a terrible plague in America and that is the thinking that a consensus must be formed before one can act. IMO, good leadership and a good bold world-view on living would be to put up a sign that says no shoes allowed in house.... Go for it Matthew


This reminds me of a passage in Shakespeare's play Henry V. Henry V, the king of England is told after meeting his future bride, a French princess, that it is not the fashion for French maidens to kiss before they are married. He replies:

O Kate, nice customs curtsy to great kings. Dear
Kate, you and I cannot be confined within the weak
list of a country's fashion: we are the makers of
manners, Kate; and the liberty that follows our
places stops the mouth of all find-faults; as I will
do yours, for upholding the nice fashion of your
country in denying me a kiss: therefore, patiently
and yielding.


So what about the so-called 'etiquette experts'? It may not be the custom in Britain and the United States for people to remove their shoes at the door. Yet this should not be an obstacle to us free men and women adopting it.

We are the makers of manners.

It is not Selfish to ask Visitors to Remove their Shoes

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Some people claim it is selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes. They think that it shows excessive concern for one's carpet or flooring.

On the contrary it is not selfish at all.

Firstly, there is an health issue involved. Peoples' shoes pick up dust and animal excrement which is not good for one's health and especially bad for the health of one's children. If one has babies or small children that play on the floor it is extremely sensible to keep one's home shoe-free.

There are many worries today about the health risks posed by pollution, toxins and chemicals. Personally, I think many of these health scares are exagerrated. Many of the supposed health risks have not been scientifically verified. However, it is best to keep as much nasty stuff out of the house as possible.

Secondly, the notion of selfishness here is relative. In a country where shoe-removing is the norm, like Finland or Russia, it would hardly be selfish to insist on shoes-off.

In Britain or the USA, where keeping shoes on is the norm, there are many people who would like to insitute a shoes-off policy, but who are afraid of causing offence or being deemed 'selfish.' If a person is brave enough to insist on shoes-off, she makes it easier for those other people who feel that they would like to make their homes shoe-free. In time, the norms of the UK and the USA may change and shoe-removing may become as normal as it is in Thailand or Sweden.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Etiquette is Bunk

I get so irritated by these so-called 'etiquette experts' who continue to insist that it is impolite to ask guests to remove their shoes. Who made them rulers and judges over us?

There is no absolute bible of etiquette. There are certain courtesies that most of us are agreed about, but other than that it is a matter of opinion.

When reading travel guides, I have often found they disagree about the details of foreign etiquette. For instance, I have heard conflicting opinions about saunas in Finland. One guide said that one should never refuse the offer of a turn in the sauna; another said that it is perfectly fine to chicken out of a nude sweaty session in Suomi.

On the subject of removing shoes in Japan I have heard conflicting views. Obviously, In Japan you remove your shoes. But do you turn them around to point to the door after removing them? Some say this is the host's responsiblity, others that the guest should do this. Some say that you should always put on the slippers offered by the host (which is a pain because they seldom fit differently shaped western feet), others that you can decline them if you like.

Etiquette is bunk. It is just a matter of opinion. I have no regard for these so-called "etiquette experts" at all.

Etiquette has changed. I read an old etiquette book that said that it was more polite to enter a house in muddy shoes than to remove them. I imagine most hosts today, even those who do not prefer shoes-off would be horrified at the thought of somebody coming in their house in muddy boots. If it is not acceptable to remove shoes in homes, surely it is also acceptable to politely request that they are removed?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stewardship

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I believe there is an issue of stewardship here.

All that we have is a gift from God. We may enjoy our posessions, but we do need to give account to the Lord of how we have used them.

Carpet cleaning services are necessary to keep homes really clean, but they are very expensive. Replacing carpets costs even more. Having a shoes-off policy considerably reduces the need for maintaining carpets and other kinds of flooring. Therefore, as stewards of God's gifts, I would suggest that Christians ought to strongly consider the benefits of having a shoes-off policy in their homes.

Clean homes can also be more effectively used in the service of the Kingdom. Homes can be put to so many uses; entertaining visiting speakers, providing shelter for those who need it, hosting fellowship meetings (I think a good case can be made for holding all church meetings in homes) and Church lunches. Keeping homes shoe-free means that larger numbers of people can be accomdated at the home with minimal impact. It also makes the floor a safer place for small children and babies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Everyday Sustainable: Day 11- Take your shoes off

Everyday Sustainable: Day 11- Take your shoes off

Can we turn Britain into a Scandinavian country?

I work in the social care sector, hold slightly progressive views and read the Guardian online. People like me seem to have a desire to turn Britain into a Scandinavian country- more relaxed yet efficent, clean and healthy and with less inequality and social disorder.

Can Britain become a Scandinavian country? Why not? We have a lot in common. We are a north European nation speaking a Germanic language. Plenty of British people are descended from Viking settlers from the time that we were part of the long-forgotten Danish empire. We have a welfare state, a monarchy, a cross in our flag and we are Protestant.

Of course if Britain were to become a progressive liberal Scandinavian country, we will all have to adopt the progressive custom of removing shoes at the door. In my opinion, however wonderful the Swedish welfare state might be, the most wonderful thing about Norway and Sweden is the fact that people take their shoes off when entering homes. Scandinavia is clean and healthy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why summer as well as winter is the season for shoes-off

The car park at my workplace is not paved; its just bare rock and earth. In winter it gets really muddy. Most people would acknowledge that you should take off muddy shoes.

Guess what, in summer it is still just as dirty in that car park. The bare earth dries up and turns into dust. Looking out of the office window now, I can see huge clouds of dust. This stuff gets picked up on shoes as easily as mud.

Road Re-surfacing

The roads got re-surfaced here in Malvern. There is horrible tarmac every where.

I just saw a girl who had crossed the road shaking bits of grit out of her flip flops.

It is horrible to think about what fresh tarmac could potentially do to a carpet. You really should think about it when you enter your home.

And as for those of you who are to polite to ask guests to remove their shoes- just suppose they have walked on a road that has been re-surfaced?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Recipricocity

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You may not have a baby at crawling age
But if you ask visitors to your home to remove their shoes, you send a message that it is acceptable to keep your home shoe-free. That makes life easier for those who do have crawling babies.

You may not have a new carpet
You may have an old carpet that needs replacing or a wooden
floor that is covered in scratch marks. But if you have a shoes-off policy, it will make it easier for those who do have a new carpet to do the same.

You may not live in an area where there is pesticide on the ground
But if you have a no-shoes rule in your house, it will make those who do need to require shoes-off feel more comfortable about it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Some Serious Theology- Are you a Tramplian or an Offalist?

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If you are an Evangelical Christian, you may be sick of the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, so let me introduce you to some new theological terms; Tramplian and Offalist.

Tramplians like to trample the carpets or flooring of their homes with their shoes on. They find it rather objectionable to be asked to remove their shoes when visiting somebody else's home.

The central principle in Tramplian theology is the freedom of the will. They believe that they should be the ones to decide whether they take their shoes off at a dinner party. Their attitude is "I decided what outfit to wear. I decided what shoes to wear. I should be able to keep them on if I like". They do not believe that a hostess should impose shoelessness on them.

Tramplians have a strong belief in the goodness of hosts. They consider that a hostess should be above all concerned for her guests wishes and convenience above keeping her home clean. They believe that if a hostess likes them enougth to invite them into her home, she will accept them with their shoes on.

Tramplians believe in the power of their own ability to keep their shoes clean. They consider themselves to be grown-up and to be careful about what they tread on. They do acknowledge that their shoes can be tainted by the corruption of dirty streets, however they hold that this can easily be dealt with by wiping their feet on their hostess' doormat. Their shoes can be restored to cleanliness by the exercise of their will.

Offalists in contrast, always remove their shoes at the door. Offalists believe in the Total Depravity of the soles of their shoes. The corruption of city streets has completely ruined the condition of their shoes, they argue, and the only hope is a change of nature for their feet, namely into slippers or clean socks. The Offalist pays heed to warnings about the health risks of pesticide, lead paint and animal excrement.

The Offalist upholds the sovereignty of the host. The hostess has been very generous in inviting her guests, however, she is sovereign over her own home and has the authority to set the rules. She will not allow anything corrupt to defile her home. Those who would enter her home must not come in their own shoes, but must meet her condition of a change into slippers or stocking feet.

The Offalist holds that the root problem of the Tramplian's theology is human pride. The Tramplian is proud of her ability to make decisions about her outfit. She is proud of her Manolos, her Prada heels or her Jimmy Choo boots. She is too proud to combine her outfit with stocking feet. She resents the idea that her hostess would not accept her in her own shoes.

The Offalist argues that if the Tramplian would only forsake her pride, she would actually find that she was far more comfortable in slippers, socks or bare feet. Her determination to remain in her stilettos will in the end hurt her feet and drag her to destruction. She may well remain outside the dinner party in the outer darkness.