Wednesday, July 07, 2010

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.


Anonymous said...

Why is having a pair of shoes not worn outdoors feasible for Canada but not the UK? It's actually pretty feasible anywhere, and I'm pretty sure people in the UK have enough money to buy one more pair of shoes. So, all they'd need to do is buy a pair of shoes and not wear them outside. Or is that somehow beyond their will power? Can they not carry them in the subway if they've no car or are in a metropolitan area? Is that it?

Celestial Fundy said...

Thanks for visiting. Have you visited before?

If you only know two or three people with a no-shoes rule who you don't visit that often, you might not be inclined to buy a pair of shoes just to visit them.

Besides, with the times being more informal than the past, I think most people are fine with stocking or bare feet at a party if it is requested.

Eldar said...

I totally agree with all the points mentioned in the post. As I said previously, shoes off at parties (or any other occassion) is never an issue in my country, Estonia, or most other northern and Eastern Europe countries. It is just no-brainer here. And it is nice that more an more people in the Western half of the continent also come to terms with the shoes off policy.

Moderate Mouse said...

At most gatherings I go to, shoe removal doesn't come up, even if the "dress code" (or at least implied dress code) is such that anything beyond the level of jeans and a t-shirt is out of the question due to the, for lack of a better term, theme of the party. However, the shoe-removal thing did come up at a party I went to on Sunday night that mostly took place on the large covered porch of house out in the country. I'm not sure if it was an actual shoes-off home per se or if it was only because it had been raining, but regardless of the situation, if there was any kind of shoes-off rule, most of the people that did observe it had on flip-flops.

I was wearing a pair of strappy sandals, and anytime I went in the house for any reason (e.g. to get a drink), I'd take them off at the door just to be safe. It wasn't that big of a deal at the time (though part of it may have been because I was a bit buzzed on some rum and coke; even if I had gotten full-blown drunk, that side of me tends to be relatively laid back), but had I known I'd be taking my shoes off and putting them back on multiple times, I probably would've opted for say, my yellow plastic flip-flops, which I could've simply slipped off and on as needed.

Celestial Fundy said...

Its nice to hear about that, MM.