Monday, December 20, 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.


richyrich said...

Yesterday (Sunday, 19 December) in the Sunday Times there was an interview with the Business Secretary in the UK Government, Dr Vince Cable. The interview was carried out at Dr Cable's home and there was a picture of him wearing a smart suit but with slippers on his feet. The interviewer also commented on his footwear. I have some recollection of reading about another interview that was carried out with Dr Cable at his home some months ago and it was mentioned there too that he was wearing slippers. I don't know whether or not Dr Cable operates a shoes off policy at his home (the interviewer made no mention about him being asked to take off his shoes)but his first wife was Indian, a culture where shoe removal in homes is the norm if I'm correct. However he clearly wasn't embarrassed about being seen wearing slippers with a formal suit. No one else who's dressed formally should feel embarrassed when removing their shoes at someone's home either, not even if it's a formal occassion

Celestial Fundy said...

You wrote that comment twice! But then the business secretary is an important man, so he deserves two comments.

richyrich said...

Yes after I'd posted it the first time I then realised that it was in under the second most recent posting and I then decided to put it under the most recent one too so that people would read it!

Moderate Mouse said...

Most, if not all of the parties that I've been to that took place within a home have been such that either dressing up was optional but not necessary or anything "dressier" than jeans with either a sweater or knit top (depending on time of year) was discouraged if not out of the question. Whatever the case, shoes generally stayed on, even if "outfits" were barely, if at all an issue. (Then again, regarding the "shoes" part, some of these events were such that people were often in and out.)

In Christmases past, I'd spend the day dressed all the way to shoes regardless of whether I was at home or someone else's home. If I end up staying home this time (which there appears to be a good chance of) I'll likely spend the day in slippers, even when my sister and her household are present unless I end up going outside for some reason (such as my eight-year-old nephew wants to play something outside). I don't know yet if I'll be wearing jeans or a skirt (if I wear a skirt, it'll likely be a denim one like I wore last year) as I like dressing up if given the chance, but jeans tend to come closer to the norm for gatherings that happen at my house, but I have no problem with wearing my slippers with either one.

Celestial Fundy said...

You did mention that party where you removed your sandals along with other guests a while ago.

Moderate Mouse said...

As far as that party was concerned, it had been raining, and those of us wearing sandals or flip-flops were more diligent about taking our shoes off upon entry than those people who were in sneakers (or whatever term you prefer). As much of the party took place on the big covered porch, if I was inside at any point, it was usually for a few minutes at most to get a drink or something. I think if it had been dry out, I would've been expected to keep my shoes on the whole time, especially since I was not so much as spending the night at that house.

Anonymous said...

Omg....nice article! :D

Celestial Fundy said...

Thankyou, Anonymous person.

Anonymous said...

You say crumbs and drinks will be spilled onto the floor, and that that is already enough dirt without shoes/sneakers. However, I'd rather keep my sneakers on in that case. I wouldn't want all of that to end up on my socks...and then inside of my sneakers.

Celestial Fundy said...

Anonymous, thanks for visiting and leaving your comment.

I really don't think a few pastry crumbs and a few spilled drinks soaked into the carpet is going to do much harm.