Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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.


Bob said...

My wife has recently found what she considers to be a practical solution to being in stocking feet at gatherings. She has purchased soft soled slippers in various colors. Before going she chooses the pair which coordinates with her outfit puts them in her purse and changes when she arrives. She got this idea from a cousin who was visiting us but does not like being shoeless. When she arrived she asked if it was ok if she wore these slippers rather than go shoeless

Celestial Fundy said...

Very thoughtful.

Moderate/Tiger Mouse said...

What I wish I could do without worrying about warranting strange looks or nit-picky questions from my family is have a pair of emergnecy slippers (preferably ones that look like soft flats) to keep in my purse. Not only would I be covered for if I should happen to visit a shoes-off home, but it would also be for if my "real" shoes were to get ruined by rain, mud, etc. on the way over. While I'm still not a big advocate of being unshod in other people's homes (unless I'm doing something that by its nature warrants bare or stocking feet), nonetheless, I wouldn't want to track something obvious like mud on someone's floor. The slippers would be a good back up. I'd also see about different colored slippers if it were currently feasible.

Bram said...

The thing I don't get is why it is considered such a big deal by some to remove their shoes. I look at shoes as purely utilitarian to protect your feet in places of possible danger, generally construction zones or any other place where the foot might possibly get injured. These cases are normally pretty rare. In Western society, most people wear shoes almost everywhere. With what gets on the sole of the shoe from an entire day, it is hard to imagine why anyone would want to track that stuff in their own homes! Indoors shoes should be off, in fact the only thing appropriate for indoors is bare feet. In ancient times this was the etiquette and people were often given the opportunity to wash their feet at the door if they were barefoot. BTW, based on these thoughts, I almost never wear shoes - or socks for that matter either indoors or out, so to answer the question whether I removed my shoes before coming, the answer is "no" since I didn't have any on. And I do wash my feet quite frequently!

Celestial Fundy said...

Tiger, I am sure you could find some slippers that would fit nicely in a handbag.

Celestial Fundy said...

Bram, thanks for visiting and leaving your comment.

I am afraid I am not into the outdoor barefooting movement. It is just a little too radical for me.

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j renee shoes said...

If I’m having a party at my flat, I tell everyone who comes in to take their shoes off. Cuz I just think of all the nastiness that they could drag in with their shoes – dog crap, vomit, hepatitis…Etc.

If I go to someone else’s flat, I’ll take my shoes off if everyone else has done it. If they haven’t, whether or not there’s carpet, I’ll make sure my shoes are dry or fairly clean before I step inside and leave them on – cuz I don’t want to step in something that someone else brought in with them (even if it’s just a puddle of snow, plus, wet socks suck.). Gross. =D