Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Germs are not necessarily the issue


A lot of people think those who ask for shoes-off in their homes are 'germaphobes.' It is certainly true that a lot of people who have a shoes-off policy are parents of small children who are concerned about germs being walked in on peoples' shoes. This is a quite legitimate concern.

This concern is often countered by the so-called 'hygiene hypothesis.' This holds that allergies are currently on the rise because peoples' homes are too clean and modern children are not sufficiently exposed to bacteria. There is evidence to support this theory, even if the jury is still out.

Even assuming that the 'hygiene hypothesis' is correct, there is no obvious way to decide how much dirt is healthy. Very few parents would be happy about cooking in a dirty kitchen, or having their children sleep in filthy rooms. While some bacteria is good and healthy, some bacteria can cause all sorts of diseases.

More importantly, there are some things that your shoes pick up that are not germs, but very much in the unwanted category: lead, pesticide, weed killer, dog excrement, roundworms, dust, pollen, plant sap, mold, toxoplasmosis (a parasite which is transmitted through animal excrement and which can survive in infected soil), cigarette ash, arsenic, mecury, asbestos, cadmium and thallium.

Simply put, your shoes can pick up anything. Please keep them out of the house.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Party Themes


If you are hosting a party and you want it to be fancy-dress, but don't want to mess up your carpet, you could incorporate shoelessness into the theme. There are a number of possible fancy dress themes that would fit:

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.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Groovy Green Living: Shoes Off At The Door Please

Groovy Green Living: Shoes Off At The Door Please

'In our house we are attempting to contain the toxin filled outdoors by declaring our home a “shoe free” zone. All shoes come off in the garage and they stay there until the next time we venture out. We try to remind our friends and family to honor our request for a shoeless house and we are grateful that everyone is very respectful. I have even been toying with the idea of posting a cute sign at the door reminding people to remove their shoes. We have found that making our home shoe free was a simple change in our lifestyle to keep some of the outdoor toxins from traveling into our living space. Perhaps one day pesticides will no longer be used on lawns, but until then let’s all try taking our shoes off. By doing this we are creating healthy home environments which protect our children and pets from toxic chemicals coming from the great outdoors.'

Japan Probe: Haunted House (No Shoes Allowed)

Japan Probe: Haunted House (No Shoes Allowed)

Harlem Love Birds: Our Shoe Free Home

Harlem Love Birds: Our Shoe Free Home

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guest Post from Richyrich no.2

Paul and Anne's Story

Paul and Anne are both teachers in their late 40's and live in the Midlands. They have two teenege children (a son and a daughter) both of whom are still at school and living at home.

Last year they had a major extension done to their house. Whilst the work was going on the ground around their house was very messy and they decided that until the work was finished, the whole family should take their shoes off when entering the house in order to keep the place clean. The original plan was for it just to be a temporary measure and that the wearing of shoes indoors would resume afterwards.

However one thing they noticed was that as soon as they started removing their shoes, the house was much cleaner even compared to what it was before the building work began. Cleaning had to be done less frequently which for two busy working people was a major bonus! They then decided to make the "shoes off policy" permanent and carry on with it even after the work was complete. At first their children were not keen on the idea, they have friends over quite often, and the thought of having to get them to unshoe themselves every time they visited did not appeal to them.

Eventually they were won over and now more than a year on and the buiding work just a memory, the whole family take off their shoes in the house all the time without thinking about it. The children's friends do it every time they visit as well. Indeed some have actually commented that they like the practice as it makes them feel more comfortable!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Guest post from Bob

Susan’s Saga

Susan is a 43-year-old single woman who lives in a tony suburb of NYC. She recently accepted a position as a administrative manager for a Broadway actress. The job requires Susan to work from the actress’ NYC apartment.
On the day of her initial interview, she arrived professionally dressed. She rang the bell and was invited in with the proviso that her shoes were to be left at the door. During the course of the interview, the actress explained that she maintained a shoe free home and as such Susan had the option of either spending the day in her stockinged feet or changing into a pair of soft sole slippers upon arriving.
What was Susan’s reaction to the “no shoes allowed rule”? She was very willing to accept the rule as she maintains a shoe free home herself.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guest Post from Richyrich

Kathy's story

Kathy is a 51 year old divorcee who works as a Legal Secretary and lives in Cheshire. She has two grown up children, both of whom have now left home. She had always wanted light coloured carpets but knew that it would have been impractical whilst the children were younger and living at home, as it would have been impossible to keep clean. However she now has her house to herself and is finally able to do it up the way she wants. She recently had cream coloured carpets installed throughout the house. The only concern she had before she put them in was how they could be kept spotless for long. She did some research on the topic on the internet and saw that a lot of the advice was taking off shoes when people entered the house and she really liked that idea.

Kathy often has friends over for drinks and just a chat and was worried about how visitors to her house would take to a shoes off policy. She was concerned that some might see it as a little odd or “anal retentive” even. However, as soon as she explained the reasons for it to her friends they were all very understanding and now whenever they visit her they kick off their shoes as soon as they are in through the door without any second thoughts

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fictional People (Stereotypes?) Part 3



Tim is 22 and lives in Birmingham where he works as an IT technician at the university.

He is single and shares a house with two friends.

Tim is very keen on science fiction and owns a large collection of Sci-fi DVDs. He and his friends are also very keen on computer games.

Tim has a shoes-off policy in his house. When he was younger and lived with his parents, he was expected to remove his shoes. When he moved out of the family home, he saw no reason to depart from the norm and got his housemates removing their shoes. Taking care of the carpet just seemed commonsense. Tim's housemates had also grown up expecting to remove shoes in their own homes and when visiting friends. For them, being in socks when in a home was normal for them.

When Tim's girlfriend first visited his house, she was surpised that at a house inhabited by three young men was as clean as it is. She was impressed and had no objection to removing her shoes when visiting.

When watching science fiction movies and t.v. shows, Tim sometimes wonders why characters are seldom shoeless.


Charlotte is 29 and lives with her partner in Reading. She is a pharmacist by profession.

Charlotte is a passionate lover of all things Japanese. She has visited Japan three times and she attends Japanese language classes. She has an avid interest in Japanese Anime films. It is a certainty that any exhibition of Japanese art in the Uk will be visited by Charlotte.

Charlotte admits that her Japanese cooking leaves a little to be desired, but it is not for want of trying. She is not brilliant at cooking English food either, but pharmacy was her calling in life, not catering.

She developed this fanatical interest when she visited a museum at the age of nine. In the museum she saw suits of samuarai armour, Japanese statues and other artifacts that fascinated her. Ever since, she took every opportunity to learn something of the country.

Perhaps inevitably, she adopted the custom of removing shoes in her home. Of course, she had several tatami mats in her living room, so wearing shoes was not an option. Charlotte's partner was under strict instructions to follow Japanese etiquette and remove his slippers before stepping on her tatami mats. He did draw the line at changing into toilet slippers when in the bathroom, however.

Charlotte's friends smile when reminded to remove their shoes. They put it down to her nipponophile craziness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Visited Stevenage Police Station Again

(Sorry, I did not really meet Coronation Street's Becky Granger there)

I was shadowing a colleague from the Drug Intervention Program again and so got to visit Stevenage police station's custody suite again.

People detained at Stevenage cells have their shoes replaced with rubber beach sandals. I noticed some of the prisoners there had left their replacement sandals outside the cells. Perhaps the custody officers thought these prisoners might throw the flip flops when the doors were opened.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Scorching Earth

My neighbour just called on me. I stepped outside to talk to him in my bare feet and found the paving stones were scorching hot. I did not think it got that hot in this country.

Hardcore 'Offalists' might suggest it's my fault for going outside barefoot. In Japan, where shoes are always removed, nobody ever steps outside barefoot and you don't even put your bare feet in the genkan (entrance area). Though interestingly enough, a lot of people in old Japanese prints are depicted as going barefoot outdoors.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

65 Degrees North: ‘Finland’s Ruining My Socks!’

65 Degrees North: ‘Finland’s Ruining My Socks!’

Taking your shoes off indoors is just so obvious a custom in Finland that nobody seems to question it at all. ‘Why would you keep your shoes indoors?’ asks Riitta, 29, an Oulu teacher. ‘It’s disgusting. I think that we Finns like to keep our houses clean.’
‘I wouldn’t wear my shoes in house,’ comments Katariina, 29, also a teacher. ‘And I definitely wouldn’t wear them in somebody else’s house. I never really thought about it. But you don’t want to bring dirt from outside inside.’

This article has some interesting discussion about how old the custom of removing shoes in Finnish homes is.

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.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Upstairs Downstairs


Some people have a rule in their house that people may keep their shoes on downstairs, but not upstairs. In a similar manner some people require only overnight guests to remove their shoes.

I understand that the upstairs is a more intimate part of the house and the place where sleeping is done (so a natural place to keep allergy-free). However, I really do not see the need to only go half-way on the shoes-off policy. Who wants a clean carpet upstairs and a dirty one downstairs? Besides most peoples' children will be playing as often on the floors downstairs as the floors upstairs.

It seems much more simpler and straightforward to have the whole house shoe-free.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Teenage Memory

I remember when I was 15 or 16 being invited to a barbecue at the home of a guy who was about 17. After we had been in the garden for quite a while, it started to rain and we needed to go in the house.

The boy whose home it was asked us to take our shoes off when we went in. His parents did not have a shoes-off rule and I had visited quite a few times and kept my shoes on. Presumably he was under instructions from his parents that his guests were to take their shoes off if they went inside.

There was a girl there who had come with a friend that she was staying with overnight. She protested at being asked to remove her shoes because she was not wearing socks. Back in the mid-nineties, it was fairly fashionable to wear sneakers without socks. The boy insisted that she needed to take her shoes off. However, she refused. Her friend went into the house barefoot and made some quick goodbyes and then they left and returned to her house.

What would have happened if the house of the girl's friend was further away and they were reliant on being picked up at a certain time? Would she have stayed outside or would she have taken her shoes off? I suppose the host could have offered her some socks.

At the time, I took the moral of the story to be that if you wear sneakers without socks, you must be prepared to be barefoot. You never knew when you might have to take your shoes off.

These days people don't seem to wear sneakers without socks so much; they wear those ridiculous socks that leave the ankles bare but which are still visible. Teenage girls at a party would probably be wearing those flat ballet pumps without socks, unless it was winter and they wearing those Ugg boots. Fashions have changed an awful lot.

Of course, if you are wearing sneakers without socks, your feet are more likely to smell. If you get asked to remove them in somebody's home, the best thing to do is to ask if you can be excused and wash your feet in the bathroom.