Friday, March 11, 2011

Shoes - on or off?

Just read someone on Twitter complaining that a visitor hadn't bothered to take his/her shoes off before coming into her house. Here in Chicago, where there's a lot of snow and salt for months on end, it's common practice to remove your shoes at the front door.

Workmen often come equipped with shoe covers that look like soft shower caps (see photo) and most people have a boot tray of some sort to protect hardwood floors from the drips.

But I hate it. OK, most of the time I'd prefer not to have to wipe up wet footprints, but I also hate the fact that people are padding around my house in their socks. And I especially hate having to take my boots off in other people's houses since I usually have a hole or two in the socks.

People here do it even at parties, which always looks rather ludicrous. The Ball & Chain and I went to a nice drinks party when we were skiing. I thought long and hard about what to wear. OK, liar, liar pants on fire there - I chose between the two nice sweaters I had packed. I also made sure to wear a decent pair of black boots rather than the fetching lumberjacky ones I usually trudge around in. When we arrived, I was greeted by row upon row of footwear at the front door, and instantly got the message that no matter how long the boots made my legs look, they were coming off. Annoyingly, I was wearing gleaming white sports socks which made the whole shoeless look even sillier.

I don't know, maybe it's me that's being silly?

24 comments:

  1. I do prefer people to take wet/muddy boots and shoes off - especially children - but I wouldn't ask that of people at a party! Would be weird with everyone standing around in their socks.

    Mind you, I think some people are quite paranoid. I heard one mother here saying that if you wore shoes inside, toxic chemicals from bug-spraying would infest in your house and poison your children.

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  2. I'm with you, Toni. Unless shoes and boots are really mucky I'd say keep them on. I feel undressed without them, particularly at a party, for heaven's sake.

    My inlaws always come to our house with their slippers in a bag to change into. It's a right palaver at the door - the ceremony of the slippers - but I suppose it's preferable to just wearing socks which I find oddly distasteful as a guest.

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  3. I'd never ask guests to dinner to take their shoes off, but kids who come tromping in with snow and mud sticking to their boots are stopped at the door. My South Asian friends expect you to take your shoes off at the door, only they're too polite to point it out to me. I've learned to wear really nice sockwear over to their homes. :-)

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  4. I agree Toni. I think it's a silly practice. We had a friend visit the house a day after the new puppy arrived and technically I should have asked him to remove his shoes before coming into the house. (New puppies are subject to parvo virus which is deadly until they are fully vaccinated.) In the end I didn't ask him to remove his shoes because I just felt silly and awkward about it.

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  5. We're in the midst of a cultural shift in the US about taking shoes off in other people's houses. It's always been common in northern states where there's snow and mud to take one's boots off if it's an informal visit, but in wintertime only. For a more formal party, people used to bring their shoes in the winter. But it's becoming more widespread for homeowners to require guests to remove shoes yearround, whether to protect hardwood floors or for cleanliness. Partly, I think, because so many people have installed engineered floors or wood floors with the new "green" finishes, both of which scratch easily. I'm old-school, and am personally horrified at the thought of asking a guest to take off their shoes, and uncomfortable about taking mine off when visiting anyone I don't know well.

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  6. At a party, I'd find it quite strange for everyone to take their shoes off. Day to day, I generally never suggest people do unless it's really muddy outside. But then, I hate vacuuming so maybe I should ask.

    As a 'by the way', my brother-in-law is a door-to-door salesman and he uses the line "Shoes - on or off?" to distract people into letting him into the house so he can finish delivering his pitch.

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  7. Ooh, that's interesting about the salesman's ploy. I won't fall for that one now!

    I'm a shoes on person, though my children have always naturally taken their shoes off in our home and other people's. I think this is one of those things that is changing. Soon, old fogeys will keep shoes on, and everyone else will take them off.

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  8. I only got used to this idea after I began dating my husband, who is European. When we got married, it became a no-brainer to keep the carpet and floors cleaner(and to avoid petty argument). For parties we don't ask people to, although most people do ask, "shoes on or off?"
    I am used to it, although in the summer I always go around with bare feet, but then glares from my mother-in-law when we go to visit. I have had to compromise and wear flip-flops when visiting!

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  9. I don't ask, but the sight of my pale beige carpet in the hall is enough! People with muddy shoes remove them and, if people don't remove them, it's because they are confident their shoes won't dirty the carpet. I think removing party shoes is quite odd!

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  10. In mucky old England, it isn't the norm to take off shoes. However if I had messy shoes & the person I was visiting had plush carpets, then I would take them off. My problem is...... I need to sit down to take my shoes off and on and that is sometimes not possible. some people let me sit on their stairs to do it.
    Of course the Japanese members of the family, always take shoes off.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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  11. In our old house, which had (as is not that unusual) just the one door, through which everyone and their pushchairs and wellie boots came, I used to swear that one of the rules in the new house would be shoes off at the door.

    Now. Well, not so much. Although we did do it rigidly between November and January (and today) when it was snowy (so I have sympathy with the twitterer, because all that salt and slush is horrid, especially when you walk on it in socks). Am thinking, when the building works are done and we have a front door and a back door of asking those who enter by the latter (ie children and workmen) to remove shoes, and those who come in the former (ie friends who have thought about their footwear, and people I don't know terribly well) not to. Do you think it would work?

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  12. I hear you. Even in the summer people are expected to take their shoes off around here. Drives me batty. Reminds me of an episode of Sex in the City where Carrie was asked to take off her Malanos. She complained, "But it's an outfit. A look. It doesn't work without the shoes." She took them off grudgingly and someone stole them. But people have rules so I just follow them no matter how dumb I think they are.

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  13. And that is why we're having oak flooring laid throughout! If we had nice cream carpets, shoe removal would definitely be compulsory...

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  14. We never did it at home growing up (unless it was wellies or muddy boots) so I don't do it now. Don't even think about it. Notice that all the kids take their shoes off at the door which is polite I think but if adults offer I always say no. I don't do it in other people's houses unless my shoes are dirty. If asked I would. It's never happened at parties. I take spare clean shoes to change into if the weather is bad. Interesting post. X

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  15. I got used to doing this when I lived in Norway for 7 years and for the same reasons; ice, snow and dirty workmen. I still do it now in the US. I think it's respectful of me and my home when people remove their dirty shoes. Even with wooden floors, bits of gravel can get trodden in and make huge marks so I say "Get 'em off!".... ;-)

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  16. A real dilemma, that's for sure. :)

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  17. Its called pride...your mum would have been proud that you have standards!

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  18. Its hit or miss here (and its rarely wet and muddy). Chinese and other asian friends always expect shoes off. I had the same experience of an outfit being messed up, was wearing nice boots with jeggings to a party at my bosses house, which was "shoes off". I let guests keep shoes on in my house but usually ask kids to take them off, what with all the rampaging about!.

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  19. Here in Sweden it is ALWAYS shoes off, and to be honest, it makes me cringe when it's otherwise (or I go home to the UK to visit and people are walking on the carpet in outdoor boots). Think of the germs and the dirt people walk in outside...and then would bring into your house if they didnt take their shoes off at the door. Bleurgh!
    We sold something in the small ads here once, and even when the lady (stranger) came to pick it up, she took off her shoes when she came into the house. It's just normal to me now.

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  20. It's normal to remove shoes in lots of European countries, and although it isn't in the UK, I always take mine off at home, and offer to in other people's houses (or just do it if they're muddy). If I go to stay at someone's house I always take slippers.

    I don't ask other people to remove shoes in my house, but then we have hard floors and a dog...

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  21. Nearly everyone I know here will remove their shoes at the door (even though I never ask them to) and I know they expect me to do the same when I visit them, so I'm used to it by now but it still seems weird to walk around in my socks when I visit someone. I can understand removing shoes after being outside in bad weather (I'm from MN) but otherwise no.

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  22. I think I prefer street dirt to toe sweat as well.

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  23. I also hate people padding round my house in their socks. definately shoes on for me (as long as they are clean) although my kids always (without being asked) take their shoes (and sometimes socks) off when we visit other people.

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  24. I HATE it when I'm asked to take my shoes off because of smart carpets etc - makes me feel almost naked weirdly and like I need to curl up on the sofa ish - its a British thing I suspect - swedes etc all find it super unhygienic to leave them on don't they and they all do it in Asia too - it's an odd one Lx

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