Friday, February 07, 2014

Group Conformity

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a newly formed mid-week Bible study group. I had visited the home of the leaders many times. They don't have a shoes-off rule, but most people visiting them tend to take their shoes off.

The first week we met as a group, everybody took their shoes off except one lady who kept her boots on. The next week everybody removed their shoes except her. However, half-way through the meeting she decided to take her shoes off and put them by the door. Although the hosts said it was unnecessary, she must have felt an overwhelming psychological pressure to conform to what everybody else was doing.

50 comments:

Ashley said...

What was the reason everyone was without shoes on, and what were the ages of the people? Did the lady bring her slippers or just went around in her stocking feet?

Matthew Celestis said...

You are inquisitive.

I think people removed their shoes because that is what British people generally do nowadays. We all know how hard it is to keep carpets clean.

The oldest were in their sixties and the youngest was 16.

One person brought slippers. The lady who at first kept her shoes on was in socks after she removed them.

Ashley said...

Actually, I thought in the UK it was the norm for people to keep their shoes in the house - especially for ladies who are wearing stockings and heels.

Was it the 16-year old who preferred to keep her boots on? Were people dressed casually?

Ashley said...

I must add that in this situation I would keep my shoes on no matter what others did. Especially if I were dressed up.

Matthew Celestis said...

Ashley, are you from the UK yourself.

In my experience, shoes off has become the norm more often than not. People are less likely to remove them if dressed up.

At this meeting, people were dressed casually.

It was a lady in her early sixties who kept her shoes on.

Ashley said...

I lived in London for a year, never encountered anyone take their shoes off at someone else's house. I think it would be very odd if you are dressed up. Also, I think it has to do with social class - do you really think Duchess Catherine would remove her shoes when visiting someone?

Matthew Celestis said...

Not in the circles she travels in. But her situation is not exactly typical of British people.

I have never lived in London, but I have heard removing shoes is pretty common there. Probably increasingly so, with the ethnic diversity.

Mat said...

A copy-cat!! My niece and her boyfriend always remove their shoes when they arrive home and interestingly their 18 month old son automatically does the same. Copying Mum & Dad! This lady obviously felt the odd one out. I think shoe removal in UK homes is a lot more common that we might imagine. I feel though that it's more for cleanliness and comfort rather than any cultural reason.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I think Duchess Catherine had not removed her shoes in the house even before she met Prince William. Once again, it is a matter if class.

How common in the UK is for a lady who is all dressed up to take her heels off at someone's house and walk around in her tights? I bet it almost never happens.

Matthew Celestis said...

Anonymous, I have seen that happen quite a few times.

If you don't mind my asking, do you live or have you visited the UK?

Anonymous said...

Matthew - in these cases, how old were the ladies and why did they remove their high heels? Were they forced to do so?

To answer your question - I visited the UK a few times, including England and Scotland.

Matthew Celestis said...

Most of the examples were older women, but I have seen younger women do this. In most cases this was by choice rather than by request.

Anonymous said...

So the younger women are less likely to take their shoes off unless forced to? Then maybe the trend is towards leaving shoes on.

Matthew Celestis said...

No, it's the opposite way round. Younger women are more likely to remove their shoes. The difference is that younger women are less likely to be dressed up than older women.

Ten years ago, I would have said that British people generally keep their shoes on. Today I would say that it is more common for British people to remove them.

Anonymous said...

So when the younger women take their shoes off do they bring slippers or walk around in their socks or tights? And, are the higher-class people less likely to do that?

Matthew Celestis said...

British people who have removed their shoes tend not to wear slippers, except in their own homes.

My impression is that posher and weathier people are less likely to have shoe-free homes.

To save you these questions, I plan on writing a post about the current British norm in the next couple of days.

Anonymous said...

Do you think British people (especially women) are more likely to remove their shoes in the winter when they are likely to wear boots? Do they ask permission before removing their shoes?

Matthew Celestis said...

Yes, removing shoes is more common in winter than summer.

They don't tend to ask permission to remove them, but they often ask whether the hosts prefer shoes-off

Anonymous said...

Are women more likely than men to remove their shoes, and if so, why?

Sandro said...

I've seen a photo of Norwegian royals, all with their shoes off at home. I've also read somewhere since Scandinavian royals' lifestyle is more democratic than that of the UK ones, they do practice shoes off in their private lives.

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to believe that Norwegian royals, as well as upper classes, practice shoes off. Surely they have enough money to hire someone to clean their floors??

Mark said...

At the church home groups I go to everyone automatically remove their shoes. At this time of year when its very cold some bring their slippers to wear and some go in socks.
The area I live in it would be considered rude not to remove shoes and quite of lot of people do take slippers with them when visiting.
Regarding Royalty removing shoes. There are Stately homes in the UKthat actually ask for shoe removal. I have been to museums and palaces in Hungary where shoes are not allowed. And in Canada there are also such places. I have never been to Norway but I do believe that shoe removal is the norm there as well. Does anyone really know what the Royals do behind closed doors? Does anyone really care?

Sandro said...



Kindly follow the link http://www.hellomagazine.com/royalty/2013071613525/norwegian-royals-photoshoot-puppies/

1) Cleaning ladies can't restore ruined floor and rugs
2) cleaning ladies can't clean after your shoes every second
3) cleaning ladies' work should also be respected
4)it's a matter of comfort, after all
5)it's not seldom that Scandinavian royals live in ordinary apartments and have married persons not from upper classes.

Matthew Celestis said...

There is not a lot of difference between men and women removing their shoes. Women might be more likely to prompt their husbands to remove their shoes; as they are more likely to think about keeping the carpet clean. In general, that is.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, have you actually seen ladies prompt their husbands to remove their shoes? Was it even when the hosts did not have a shoes-off policy?

Mark - I wonder where in the UK you have seen stately houses that require shoes off. Do visitors have to bring slippers there? As for the royals, I am 100% sure that neither Queen Elizabeth nor Duchess Catherine ever had to take their shoes off. It is just a matter of social class. As Matthew observed earlier, richer and posher houses are the least likely to require shoe removal. It is just not classy.

Matthew Celestis said...

Yes, I have seen this.

Anonymous said...

In this case, how did the ladies motivate the need for shoe removal? Did they make their husbands take their shoes off?

Matthew Celestis said...

I find it strange that in so many comment threads on this blog, I and others get asked for more and more details about things we mention.

They just told their husbands to take their shoes off.

Anonymous said...

Well, would it be rude for the husband not to comply?

Matthew Celestis said...

I suppose that's a matter of opinion. You know I think people should take their shoes off. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Well, if there is no explicit shoes-off policy, why would the ladies still make their husbands take their shoes off?

Mat said...

I've seen the Queen remove her shoes when entering a Mosque. I really can't imagine the Duchess of Cambridge relaxing in front of the TV with high heels on! Can anyone?

Matthew Celestis said...

The problem is that in the UK, while most people do take their shoes off, people tend not to request it. So it's not always clear to guests what the host actually prefers.

Anonymous said...

Well, then why assume that the hosts prefer shoes off? Some might actually prefer that the visitors keep their shoes on.

As for the Duchess - I would not be surprised if she sat in front of the TV with her high heels on, as this is what she is supposed to wear.

Mark said...

The person called "anonymous" Where are you from? Instead of asking all of the questions, tell us something about yourself. Where are you from. Whats your social class? Every time someone has asked you a question you have refused to answer it. Why? Give yourself a name instead of hiding behind anonymity.
I think you are just enjoying your attempts at winding us up.
Are you Norwegian.Don't they have little trolls up there?

Mat said...

I'm finding Anon's reactions a bit silly really. You honestly think Catherine wears high heels when relaxing? No women, with any sense, would. They are formal shoes that women endure for the smart look on formal occasions. The Duke does not put on his best suit for an evening in front of the telly! Come on! Please be realistic.

Anonymous said...

Mark - I am Ashley, from the U.S. (Northeast, to be exact), upper middle class, have traveled throughout Europe, including England and Scotland and Norway. Does this answer your questions?

Anonymous said...

At the very least, the Duke and Duchess keep their shoes on when visiting other people.

Sandro said...

Of course, royals are less likely to follow middle class patterns including shoe-free homes. Their lives are too public; their servants are too many; their houses are big and include large public shoes-on areas. However, modern royals often live quite democratically in their private lives.
Princes Diana, then Countess Spenser, worked as a babysitter in London, in her friends homes. Sometimes, she did some housekeeping for them. She stayed in a flat with her friend.
One of Scandinavian royals, who married a girl from a much lower class, for years stayed with her in a standard rented flat.
I guess the shoes-off style comes together with such changes.
Another point: while it's common to throw shoes-off parties on boats, why should it be a problems at homes? Quite a few celebrities in the US and Europe do impose the shoees-off rule at their homes, so why should it be a problem for royals?
Life is changing, and so does the shoe etiquette.

Sandro said...

Regarding the UK contribution to the shoe-free rule: Though it's very common for the Caucasian homes, the same can't be told about offices. First time that I myself thought "why not?" was when I saw a British professor at a university in Baku entering her office in stockinged feet because a cleaning lady had just washed the floor.

Matthew Celestis said...

Ashley, if you want us to take your comments more seriously, can I suggest you post as 'Ashley' by selecting Name/URL when you comment?

That goes for anyone else posting as Anonymous. I'm not going to hurt you, there is no need to be afraid!

Ashley said...

Sandro - I would keep my shoes on, thank you, and I am not so sure it is a good thing that low-class habits such as taking shoes off penetrate the upper-middle class as well as the upper class. Shoes are important, especially in a public place.

Mark said...

In my experiences it is working classes in the Uk who are less likely to take their shoes off. Conversely it's the middle classes, in my experience who take shoes off and have the good manners when visiting to ask if shoes should be removed.There is a class dimension to shoe removal here in the UK, but people like Ashley seem to have it a little upside down. Perhaps if they actually lived here they may know what they are talking about

Ashley said...

What about the upper classes? Do they take their shoes off too? Somehow I doubt it.

Mark said...

how is that relevant.

Ashley said...

I just think that walking around in your socks in a social situation is tacky at best, and definitely shows no class or taste.

Mark said...

I was under the impression it was the English who are obsessed by class. it appear, Ashley, that it actually the Americans who are obsessed by class. Thats all you talk about.Have you nothing original to say?

Ashley said...

It is not as much class as it is taste. When you visit people you want to be dressed presentable, and this includes shoes.

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Raven said...

Personally I think that the shoes free rule and class don't really have much to do with each other, I mean who judges a person's class by whether they are wearing shoes or not? I myself do not wear shoes in the house or at other people's house's.