Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Degrees of Firmness Part 2


I think for friends I would go for the very direct no.6 (Could you take your shoes off, please?) and for people I did not know, I would use the more restrained no.4 (Are you alright with taking your shoes off?).

It may be that you are just too shy to use the more direct requests. However, you might find that the softest approach no.1 works a lot of the time. If you are barefoot and there are a lot of shoes by the door, you may get the right reaction just by saying:

You can take your shoes off here, if you like.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Having a Shoes-Off Policy Does Not Mean

Having a shoes-off policy does not mean that:

- You do not know the difference between asking and demanding.

- You ask your guests to remove their shoes in an unpleasent or rude manner.

- You "force" your guests to remove their shoes.

- You would not make an exception for elderly people or those with a medical issue.

- You would never make an exception if a guest felt really uncomfortable with removing her shoes (this is at your discretion).

- You would never make an exception for a party (but you don't have to; shoeless parties are great too!)

- You would not try to let guests know in advance that you prefer shoes-off.

- You make your guests wear horrible fluffy slippers that have been worn by hundreds of previous guests.

- You think your guests shoes are dirtier than your own.

- You treat your guests like children.

- You are obsessed with cleanliness.

- You are anally rententive.

- You are germaphobic.

- You keep your children in a sealed plastic bubble.

- You have plastic sheeting on your furniture.

- You have a foot fetish.

- You care more about your carpets than your guests.

- You are not an absolutely delightful host or hostess.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Greece and the Balkans

Many years ago, I read in a book that removing shoes in homes was common in Greece. That seemed unsurprising at the time, because I knew, being a Classics student, that the ancient Greeks removed their sandals when going indoors. However, if this book was not mistaken, it would seem that removing shoes must only be customary in parts of Greece (perhaps in the north?). All the evidence I have read indicates that Greeks generally do not care to remove their shoes in homes.

That Greeks keep their shoes on shows similarity to other southern European countries such as Italy and Spain. It does contrast very strongly with other countries in the Balkans, where shoes are always removed and often replaced with slippers or sandals. From Slovenia to Bulgaria and from Albania to Romania, shoes are removed at the door.

That Greece differs from other Balkan countries reflects the historic contrast in the Balkans between the Slavs and Hellenes. The Balkans has been divided (Illyrian Albanians excepted) between the earthly Slavs and their close connection to the land, and the more cosmopolitan Greeks, with their preference for commerce as a way of life. Where the difference in shoe etiquette came from, I do not know.

It is puzzling why Greece and Bulgaria, both Balkan, both Orthodox Christian, both at the southeast of Europe and both experiencing long years of Ottoman rule would differ over the customn of removing shoes. Is it a Slav/ Hellene difference (if so when did this difference come in)? Or is it because Bulgaria (and other Slavic countries) was under Communism and Greece was not?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Degrees of Firmness


1. You can take your shoes off here if you like.

2. We take our shoes off here.

3. We do like visitors to take their shoes off.

4. Are you alright with taking your shoes off?

5. You don't mind taking your shoes off, do you?

6. Could you take your shoes off, please?

7. Take your shoes off, please.

8. Shoes off.

9. Shoes off now!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Woman'sDay: The Surprising Benefits of a Shoe-Free Home

Woman'sDay: The Surprising Benefits of a Shoe-Free Home

Our second tough customer was my mother-in-law, who squawked, “My shoes are totally clean! Why are you so paranoid?” I’m only a tiny bit ashamed that I scurried, shoe-free, into the kitchen and let my husband deal with the tirade that followed. But when she walked through the door, she was in her stocking feet.

She later staged the occasional protest (“I’m just running in for a few minutes!”), but we stood our ground (“Then your shoes will only be off for a few minutes!”), and now she takes off her shoes without a second thought.

Ofsted and Childminders

Quite a few childminders have their Ofsted inspection reports online, a commendable display of openness.

It seems that Ofsted takes a positive view of childminders requiring shoe removal as a means of preventing infection. They seem to praise childminders who require shoes-off from parents and visitors and one report criticised a childminder who allowed shoes to be worn in the baby room.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I purchased the new Faith and the Muse album, Ankoku Butoh. I was totally blown away by the video for the song, Battle Hymn, which is the best song I have heard in ages:

The album has an interesting Japanese theme (you can squeeze a connection anywhere!).

Faith and the Muse are very much part of the underground Gothic scene. It is a while since I last bought a real Gothic rock album.

While I have been described as a 'Goth' before, I don't think I am in any sense a true Goth. While I love some Gothic bands like the Cocteau Twins and I have some gothic tastes, I don't wear much black and I am pretty sure flip flops would not be seen on any serious Goth.

Can having a shoes-off policy be a thing to do in Gothic subculture? I think it can.

Firstly, being a Goth is to a large extent about being an individual departing from the mainstream, so adopting a non-traditional custom (for a British or American) can be very Goth thing to do.

Secondly, I think Goth subculture is to a large extent about style and presentation. Thus, etiquette is a hugely significant area in which Goths can re-imagine and re-present different cultural practices.

Thirdly, it is a mistake to think Goth culture is all about Neo-Victorianism. The Goth subculture has always been fascinated by non-European cultures, as with Faith and the Muse and their Japanese influenced album. The Goth movement delights in the exotic and while removing shoes may find its place in the suburban family home, it still has a flavour of the exotic east.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Good Reason

In the heavy snow on Wednesday, I went to collect a colleague for a meeting in Watford. The meeting got called off just as I got to my colleague's home. I went in for a cup of tea (I don't need to tell you we both removed boots in that kind of weather- though she did say she might have excused me because I was wearing 14-hole Doc Martins that take ages to unlace).

I mentioned this blog to my colleague and she gave her reasons for preferring shoes off at the door. One reason was quite interesting. She pointed out that guests (at least those her age) who do not take their shoes off at the door will often remove them later during a get-together and leave then discarded around the house. She finds it much more convenient to have them left neatly by the door.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

50 Something Mom's Blog: Shoes: On or Off?

50 Something Mom's Blog: Shoes: On or Off?

It is not selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes


Some people claim it is selfish to ask visitors to remove their shoes. They think that it shows excessive concern for one's carpet or flooring.

On the contrary it is not selfish at all.

Firstly, there is an health issue involved. Peoples' shoes pick up dust and animal excrement which is not good for one's health and especially bad for the health of one's children. If one has babies or small children that play on the floor it is extremely sensible to keep one's home shoe-free.

There are many worries today about the health risks posed by pollution, toxins and chemicals. Personally, I think many of these health scares are exagerrated. Many of the supposed health risks have not been scientifically verified. However, it is best to keep as much nasty stuff out of the house as possible.

Secondly, the notion of selfishness here is relative. In a country where shoe-removing is the norm, like Finland or Russia, it would hardly be selfish to insist on shoes-off.

In Britain or the USA, where keeping shoes on is the norm, there are many people who would like to insitute a shoes-off policy, but who are afraid of causing offence or being deemed 'selfish.' If a person is brave enough to insist on shoes-off, she makes it easier for those other people who feel that they would like to make their homes shoe-free. In time, the norms of the UK and the USA may change and shoe-removing may become as normal as it is in Thailand or Sweden.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Integrating My Philosophy: House Churches, Homeschooling and Removing Shoes at the Door

For most people removing shoes is just about keeping their floor clean or protecting their children from lead. For me it goes a little deeper. I will say things in this post that you may well disagree with. That is fine. If you are a Communist, an Hindu or an atheist you are welcome on this blog and if you have a shoes-off policy, we have something in common, which is even better.

It is my belief that churches should meet in homes rather than special buildings. I believe the church is meant to be a family. Yet so often, churches just become formal institutions with no life and no dynamism. The earliest Christians met in homes; meeting in a special building was a later development.

So often the norm for Christians is to put on their Sunday best and to put on a facade of piety for a couple of hours at their local congregation. Meeting in a home makes possible a far greater degree of intimacy. They have space to really share what is going on in their lives.

I believe that God made family to be central in society. Meeting in a family home draws attention to the centrality of family life. When Christians meet in a non-domestic building, they tend to end up adopting institutional practices. Typically, a congregation is divided up into a specific groups; a group for children, a group for teenagers meeting on a Friday, a group for single people on a Saturday and a group for the elderly on a Wednesday morning. Yet this is totally the opposite of family life, where all the different ages draw upon each other and enjoy each others' company.

Removing shoes at the door fits in neatly with house churches. Not only does it show respect to the needs of the family hosting the meeting, but it reflects the intimacy of the fellowship. It is amazing how much more comfortable on feels in a room full of people in their socks, as opposed to a room full of people in shoes. The group have removed their shoes and are comfortable in each others' company.

I believe that the education ought to be done in the home rather than at school.

I find it hard to understand why any Christian parent would send their child to a state school, to be taught evolutionary falsely-called science and sex education that removes children's' inhibitions and arouses their curiosity.

There are of course some great independent Christian schools and I went to one myself. However, I think that something is fundamentally lacking in the academic model of education.

We are created to live in family relationships. If being in family is fundamental to our essence as beings, then a child's education ought to take place within a family context.

In general, schools are terrible places. Quite frightful places.

It should not be a surprise that in most schools (in the UK), children are required to wear shoes all time. Schools are modelled on the world of employment, perhaps even on the military. Children are forced to follow a mass of rules and regulations; required to do all sorts of things they would not choose to do.

Education in schools follows a state prescribed curriculum. Instead of learning things that make them balanced individuals, children are taught the things that the government believe are important. They are taught to do what the teachers tell them, in order that when they grow up they may be compliant workers.

As if children are not institutionalised enough by schools, the government is actually keen that children should do extra-curricular activities outside of school, further removed from the protective influence of parents. And the government will never tire of promoting the agenda of getting mothers into work and ever younger children into child care.

Schools are totally removed from family life. Family values could never really be Incorporated into school education. When careers are discussed, there is never any suggestion that being a full time wife or mother might be a valid option. The sex education that children receive is all about making choices, the idea that sex is for marriage is an idea undreamed of in state schools.

Home education means that children receive a curriculum that can be tailored to finding their identities in family life. They have the opportunity to develop identities outside of state prescription.

Just as I think it is right and good for parents to have a shoes-off rule to keep dirt and filth from their homes, to protect their children's health, I believe parents must take on the responsibility of protecting their children's minds.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Time Has Come

'The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax; of cabbages and kings; and why the seas are boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.'

Not much here on cabbages and kings, but this blog has plenty to say about shoes and why they should be removed at the door.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Going Barefoot on Carpet

There is a claim made by many that oils from bare feet can damage carpets. According to a page on Wikipedia, this may not be true:

Wikipedia: Carpet Cleaning

It states:

The concept that walking barefoot on a carpet may lead to damage from body oils has not been supported or dis proven by standardized reports or testing or by industry evidence.

This is of course Wikipedia, which like the tales of sailors, may be believed or disbelieved as you like.

Personally, I am sceptical about the idea of bare feet ruining carpets; people go bare foot inside in the Middle East where they have the finest carpets in the world. It is probably shoes-on propoganda.

What will damage carpets is keeping your shoes on at home, or letting visitors keep their shoes on.

Christian Headcovering, Removing Shoes and the need for a Punk Attitude

It is my belief that Christian women should wear an headscarf or veil during worship. This is not a fashionable idea amongst modern evangelicals, but I believe it is biblical.

Occasionally I hear from Christian women who feel some conviction over the issue, yet who say something like:

'I am starting to feel that the Bible does teach headcovering, but I am scared to wear one because of what other women at church might think.'

I find this attitude remarkably similar to what some people say about having a shoes-off policy:

'I would really like people to remove their shoes in my home, but I am scared to ask because of what they might think.'

Notice the similarity?

I think this fear of other peoples opinion is just so destructive. It paralyses people and traps them in a mundane world of convention. It holds back any attempt to try out alternative ideas.

You have probably gathered that I am a very conservative person in my values, but when it comes to this phobia, the part of me that loves Punk Rock really kicks in. When it comes to this fear of change because of the opinion of others, I am reminded of the need for the Punk attitude.

The virtue of Punk is a rebellion against conventions that limit us and prevent us from being true to what we really think and feel. Its about being true to yourself and what you stand for.

The Christian woman who has come to believe in the necessity of headcovering should be free to cover and stand against the shallowness of those who sneer at a covered hairstyle or the timidity of pastors who are afraid to preach on the issue. They should not fear the dirty looks or the accusation of rocking the boat.

Likewise, those of us who want shoes off in our homes should not be afraid. We must be true and honest about ourselves.

Who cares if people think we are 'clean freaks' or visitors mutter after they leave our homes? People who are really our friends like us enough to respect our preferences and will enjoy our company shoes-off or not.

Friday, January 08, 2010

What do you think feet are supposed to look like?


Sometimes you hear people commenting that feet are a part of the human anatomy that are weird, odd or ugly.

Some people do have unsightly feet. This is because of age, illness, injury or just wearing daft high heels. However, most people do not have feet like this.

When people say that feet are an ugly part of the body, just what do they think feet ought to look like? Would they rather have cloven hooves or pig's trotters? Or how about wheels?

I find it especially strange when Christians make this comment. They are effectively scorning the Creator's handiwork.

Our Lord Jesus walked this earth on human feet and now His feet are as burning brass (Revelation 1:15). When the saints are resurrected to glory, they will perhaps have feet of the same quality.

I believe the angels of heaven are not purely spirits, but have bodies that are in some ways like ours. I am sure they have feet like ours.

Romans 10:15

"How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"

If anyone thinks that feet cannot be beautiful, I suggest that they be locked up for a week in an art gallery filled with paintings by William Adolphe Bouguereau.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Letter to the Times

A lady in Hertfordshire (Yay! Go Hertfordshire!) wrote to the Times extolling the virtues of her shoes-off policy. It has attracted a few comments.

I am sure she won't mind my posting it here:

Sir, Maybe Kate Ross should adopt a “shoes off” policy in her house (“Cat litter is tricky”, letter, Jan 5). Politely asking guests to remove their footwear is not an unreasonable request. Most of our visitors remove their shoes out of courtesy, without being asked, especially when they see the pile of shoes by the front door.

Kay Bagon
Radlett, Herts

I know that I have said we are not a movement, but we do seem to be acting increasingly like one.

Thanks go to Richyrich for pointing this one out.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Giving an Explanation

Deanes Day Nursery: No Shoe Policy (PDF)

A daycare nursery in Essex explains the reason for its no-shoes policy.

Requesting is not Demanding or Forcing

Contrary to a lot of comments in the shoes-off debate, there is a difference between requesting people to remove their shoes and 'forcing' or 'demanding' them to do so.

I consulted the Meriam-Webster dictionary:

Request: to make a request to or of, to ask as a favor or privilege

Demand: to ask or call for with authority : claim as due or just, to call for urgently, peremptorily, or insistently

Force: to compel by physical, moral, or intellectual means

We do not force or demand that visitors remove their shoes, but we request them to do so.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Doctor Who- Stones of Blood

I watched the Doctor Who story Stones of Blood yesterday. Fans tend to argue over the merits of that story, its not the most highly rated in the show's history. I love the Tom Baker stories which feature the Doctor's Time Lady companion, Romana. Stones of Blood has the incarnation of Romana played by Mary Tamm (Margot Leadbetter in the TARDIS).

Stones of Blood is one of the few Doctor Who stories in which shoes play a part in the plot. Romana decides to leave the TARDIS and visit a Cornish moor wearing a pair of extravagant stiletto sandals (ignoring the Doctor's warning about their impracticality), paired up with a rather fetching Burberry cap. Romana finds has difficulty coping with the terrain and while the Doctor is away investigating mysterious events, she takes them off and wanders onto the moor in her bare feet.

Doctor Who rarely shows any shoe-consciousness. The Doctor's later companion, Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) seems to have no problem running down endless corridors in precarious heels. I am quite convinced she would have fallen over quite a lot in real life. As with most science fiction shows, characters rarely ever take their shoes off.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Gentle Request

I went to my neighbour's apartment for some beers and an Indian takeaway.

Whenever I visit him, he always reminds me to shut the door and lift the handle up. Once or twice I had not lifted the latch and thus not shut it properly.

Its a simple request, but one that serves a purpose; to keep the door from blowing open and letting in the cold.

There is nothing rude about asking a guest to do or not do something. And there is nothing wrong with asking a guest to remove his or her shoes. You would not be asking them to do something horrible, but to do something they probably do in their own home.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Greenists: Ask Your Guests To Bring Slippers

The Greenists: Ask Your Guests To Bring Slippers

Cool things about Danish Culture – #1: Taking shoes off before entering living quarters

Cool things about Danish Culture – #1: Taking shoes off before entering living quarters

A Word to Shoes-Off Advocates

It is always interesting reading forum discussions on the subject of removing shoes in homes. They do tend to get a bit heated.

One thing that bothers me about some pro-shoes-off people is the tendency to make anti-American remarks. You often get comments like:

"Those dumb Americans. The only country where people don't remove their shoes."

I really don't like crass anti-Americanism. I believe it is the modern version of the Idiot's Socialism. Personally, I don't understand how so many Americans fail to see the benefits of free healthcare, but I still believe that America is an empire of liberty and a great force for good in the world. I am sure many readers (particularly those shoes-off advocates who are strong environmentalists) take a less pro-American view than I do, but they must surely see the unpleasentness of showing spite to an whole nation.

It is necessary to point out that statements like these that cite America as being the only shoes-on country. While removing shoes is certainly not the norm in the south of the USA and in parts of the east coast, removing shoes is very common in northwestern states and two states, Hawaii and Alaska (interestingly with totally different climates) are very firmly in the shoes-off camp. Even in the south, removing shoes is becoming more common.

It is actually not the USA which is most resistant to removing shoes, but Latin countries, like Italy, Spain and South America. Removing shoes in homes is very rare in those regions. I can imagine removing shoes becoming the norm in the UK and USA, but I find it hard to imagine it becoming the norm in Spain or Chile.

Friday, January 01, 2010

You should think about it

I hope you all had a good New Year's Eve. I was working at the hospital, talking to some of the revellers who had been brought in worse for wear.

I suggested in the last post that you should make a New Year resolution to insitute a shoes-off policy in your home. Perhaps you do not feel ready for that just yet. But I woud encourage you to think about it. It will help to protect your family's heath, keep your home cleaner, save you money, as well creating a more relaxed environment for whoever visits.

Perhaps if you get a new carpet, install new flooring or move to another property in the New Year, this would be a good opportunity to make the change to a shoe-free home.

It is not a difficult change to make! Just a little self-discipline and a little politeness is all that is needed.