Sunday, August 29, 2010



You will have noticed that there is lots of dust on the streets, unless you live in Finland, where the streets are immaculate.

You will also have noticed that on dry days soily ground is dusty. It is estimated that 35% of household dust originates in outdoor soil.

Naturally, as much of it originates from the ground, dust contains all the sort of things that are on the ground, such as pesticides, weed killer and lead. Things which are not good for your health. Keeping as much of this dust out of the home is a really sensible idea and this means taking off your shoes at the door and asking visitors to do the same.

Even if the dust that gets in is not full of toxins, it is good to reduce it. It reduces the quality of indoor air and can be a source of allergies.

A fashionable strategy is to remove carpets, as they absorb dust. However, this may be counterproductive as without the carpet, the dust is exposed. If you are going to go carpetless, you either need to opt for shoes-off (for all) or sweep very often. Hence, whether you choose to opt for carpet or sans carpet, a shoes-off policy is totally adviseable.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010



Some people in Britain and the USA have an interesting perspective on this subject. They feel happy taking off their shoes at the home of an Asian person whose culture demands removal of shoes, but consider it deeply rude for a British or American person to insist on visitors to her home removing their shoes.

There are two problems with this attitude. Firstly, there is a touch of cultural arrogance about it. It implies that the Asian custom of removing shoes is purely of spiritual or cultural significance with no practical value. Maybe Asian people are primarily concerned about keeping their homes clean! Behind the pretended respect for a foreign culture, there is the unspoken assumption that Western practice is superior.

Secondly, this attitude seems to take a rather static view of culture, seeing it as a set of chains that bind people to particular rules of behaviour. In fact, culture is dynamic and fluid, it changes over time.

It seems to me to be quite obvious that if a person of Asian descent can be considered British while keeping her home shoe-free, it is perfectly acceptable for a White British person to keep her home shoe-free.

It may be the norm in Britain and most of the USA for shoes to stay on in homes now, but this may change. In fact, I believe it probably will. Many White Americans and even British people are adopting the custom of shoes-off in homes.

We are living in a global village with increased immigration, travel and communication between different cultures. There is tremendous potential for different cultural practices to migrate across geographical boundaries.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Doctor Who Comic Strip

Yesterday, I bought the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine. This month's comic strip is set in Tokyo. I am not going to spoil your surprise by telling you who the returning villains are, but I am going to make a few comments on the artwork.

The Doctor and his companion, Amy visit a Tokyo apartment and remove their shoes before entering. So far so good, but there are some inaccuracies about shoe removal.

None of the apartments depicted in the strip appear to have a genkan. That is the step that separates the outside zone from the inside. In fact, in one scene the characters enter an apartment with their shoes on and discarded shoes are visible on the floor of the apartment! The artist seems to be under the impression that Japanese people enter their homes with their shoes on and then take them off before stepping onto tatami mats!

In one scene a Japanese school girl has her feet up on a couch in an office with her shoes still on. Even in a shoes-on location, a Japanese person would remove their shoes before putting their feet on a seat. I know most people have never been to Japan, but it ought to seem obvious that people who are strict about not wearing shoes in homes would not put outside shoes on seats.

There is also a Japanese character putting her slipper-shod feet on a tatami mat. That is not correct Japanese etiquette. You remove your slippers before stepping onto a tatami mat. They can be forgiven this one, however, because occasionally Japanese people break this rule.

I know it is only a comic strip, but it would not take that much effort to find out on Google how the Japanese shoe-removing custom actually works.

Monday, August 16, 2010



HIPRF stands for Herbicides, Insecticides, Pesticides, Rodenticides and Fungicides. These are chemicals that are used to deal with weeds, insects, spiders, slugs, mice and fungus. They are used in all sorts of places, particularly outside, on lawns, pathways and driveways.

You do not know how often you are picking up these chemicals on your shoes. If you wear shoes in your house, you are introducing them onto your floor and into the dust that you breath. HIPRFs are toxins that are designed to kill lifeforms. Hence they can present health risks, particularly to children.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Medical Conditions


If you read internet discussions about the subject of the shoes-off rule, you will find countless people who claim to have a medical condition that means they must wear shoes all the time. If these discussions were representative of the population; nearly half the people in the USA have such a medical condition. I do not believe it.

Yes, there are some people who do have a genuine medical reason for not removing their shoes. We must make exceptions for them.

Some people say having a shoes-off policy causes embarassment for such people because they must reveal their condition. However, this is quite unnecessary. A person with a medical condition can simply say:

I am sorry, I can't take my shoes off. Doctor's orders.

She does not need to reveal the nature of her condition. She does not need to give any embarassing details. There is really no problem here.

Monday, August 09, 2010

East European Young Mother

I was out door knocking this evening on behalf of Stevenage Conservatives.

At one of the houses I called on there was a young mother with an eastern European accent. She was barefoot and behind her was a huge shoe rack with an extensive collection of shoes. Good to see eastern European immigrants keeping up with the custom of removing shoes at the door.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Bare Necessities

I am very surprised to see so many women in their late sixties wearing flip flops this summer. Obviously a lot of older women are not embarrassed to have their feet on display.

Reading discussions about the pros and cons of the shoes-off policy you would be forgiven for thinking that a large proportion of the population cannot cope without constant ankle and arch support. At least in the UK, that impression would seem to be a mistake. A lot of older women seem to get by with minimal ankle and arch support.

I dare say that health professionals might not necessarily recommend women in their late sixties to wear flip flops, but they made the choice to wear them, so they can't be very uncomfortable.

It might be that concerns about the need for ankle and arch support are more reflective of an American context. As I understand it, podiatrists in the USA tend to discourage going shoeless, while podiatrists in the UK often recommend going barefoot indoors.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Lead Warning in St. Louis, Missouri

A sign in St. Louis, Missouri draws attention to the dangers of lead pollution on the streets and advises removal of shoes in homes.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Cash In The Attic

While my car was getting an MOT test, I happened to see an episode of Cash in the Attic on the garage television. This is a daytime show where the presenter helps a family to clear out all the junk in their home and has it valued to be auctioned.
On that episode the couple was a hippyish American woman with an Indian husband.

I noticed that the presenter was in her bare feet and the antiques expert who valued their stuff was in his socks. I did not see the beginning, so I did not see if they had been asked to remove their shoes, but they were obviously following the custom of the family they were visiting.

It makes a change to see t.v. presenters respecting a shoeless home.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Mats4u dropped in

A while ago I emailed to ask if they would comment on the popularity of their product, the 'Please take off your shoes' doormat. Unfortunately, I never got a reply. Perhaps the sales person who dealt with email queries was not sure what to do with it. Never mind.

However, the marketing manager for was kind enough to comment on this blog. You can read his comment here. He informs me that they sell approximately one 'shoes off' doormat a month.

I don't think that tells us anything about how common shoes-off policies are in the UK, as most people who have one are not necessarily going to buy a shoes-off doormat. Some 'Offalists' might think them more officious than a verbal request and others may have their friends so well-trained that they don't need one.

I think it would be nice if more people would buy one. I would suggest that if you have a shoes-off policy you might like to consider it. I know it is not cheap, but it is a very good quality doormat. If enough of you order it, perhaps they can make it a stock item. Think about it.

Please Take Off Your Shoes Doormat