Monday, November 24, 2008

Shoes-Off at a Party?


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.


Moderate Mouse said...

While I respect your idea that it is possible to be dressed very formally independently of being shod, I cannot bring myself to agree. Now, I maybe could handle not wearing "real" shoes if I could substitute in, say a pair of ballet-ish slippers so that I can still feel like I have a complete outfit.

In general, for me, it's one thing to have my shoes off when I'm doing something that, in itself, calls for it (e.g. jumping on a trampoline, playing twister, updating my pedicure), or when I'm, say, curled up on the couch and watching a movie. But when I'm doing something active, like housework (be it in my own home or if/when I'm helping the host/hostess, especially if he/she is family) or when I need to be especially formal in my appearance and/or how I act (i.e., keeping my feet on the floor when sitting on a couch or in a chair), I feel more of a motivation to do so when I have shoes on then when I'm in socks alone, pajama-style slippers, or bare feet. The latter three I associate with when I'm ready to relax. But that's just me.

Bottom line is, while I sympathise with your viewpoint against in-house shoe wearing on an intellectual level, I have problems accepting it without question on an emotional level.

That said, if I was asked to remove my shoes, then I would honor the request. But I think I may have to keep slippers of some style in my purse for those situations or if my "real" shoes get especially wet and/or dirty and I'm desperate to switch to something cleaner.

Celestial Fundie said...

Thankyou so much for visiting and sharing your opinion.

Sue said...

I like this blog. After living in Japan for fourteen years I could never go back to shoes in the house. The very thought makes me sick. If people would just think about what they are standing in when using a public restroom, and imagine that yuck on their shoes as they walk into the house... well, you get my point.

There is no decision to be made about it where I live. Come visit, and leave your shoes at the door!

Celestial Fundie said...

Sue, thankyou so much for visiting!

Canadian said...

I would just like to clarify that Canadians who bring their shoes in a bag to parties are not normally reserving those shoes just for indoor use. It is simply that they would not wear those shoes outside in the winter, but if the party is in July they will certainly arrive wearing them. In the winter they will arrive at the party wearing boots covered in snow and salt, dripping all over the place, and they will change into a clean pair of nice shoes. This is exactly what one does in the workplace too.

This is what I am used to: generally shoes off, except for formal occasions. I have slippers (multiple pairs, actually) that I wear inside my apartment and sometimes I bring them along, such as to my in-laws' house (where I am always cold).

Celestial Fundie said...

Thanks for visiting. From what I have heard, behaviour in Canada does vary.