Friday, March 14, 2008

Shoes-Off at Parties?


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.


Anonymous said...

I must say that I'm not particularly interested in being entertained by those who care more about their floors than their the comfort of their guests. The latter is the first concern of every good host.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Anonymous, is there not a difference between caring about something and caring more about it than something else?

If you invited somebody to your house for dinner, you might well object to them eating while sitting on the couch. That does not mean you care more about the couch than your guest. You are simply asking them not to do something that will inconvenience you.

My guests are happy to remove their shoes and so there seems little problem with my asking them not to inconvenience me by wearing them in my house.

God Bless


Anonymous said...

If I were to object to a guest eating on my couch, it would mean that I cared more about the couch than the comfort of my guest. Implying that anything my guests do could be an inconvenience to me is rude. If I am not prepared to fully embrace those whom I invite into my home, then I shouldn't invite them. It's quite simple.

Think of it thusly: in this blog, you mention that guests sometimes don't want to remove their shoes because they think their feet smell. You say that the smell is never a problem. However, your guest may well be sitting in your home, shoes off, worrying his entire visit whether or not you can smell his feet. Have you made this guest comfortable? No. You have placed your own convenience over his comfort.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

So you really would raise no objection if I came to dinner at your house and insisted on eating the food you cooked while sprawled on your couch?

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Does anybody else want to comment on this?

Anonymous said...

Of course I wouldn't. People are more important than things -- floors, couches, dishes, you name it. I would much rather spend the time after my guests leave cleaning than make them uncomfortable or self-conscious in any way.

If I found someone's behavior so repulsive that I feared not being able to hold my tongue next time, I would entertain that person outside of my home next time. However, I would consider myself a failure as a host if that person had any idea why.

It is, of course, your prerogative to be whatever kind of host you want. You could ask your guests to take a quick shower before coming inside if you desired. Just realize that you are sending the message that you value your things and your convenience more than those you invite into your home -- I won't say welcome, as those who like their shoes don't seem to be.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks for sharing your view. Your comments are very welcome.