Monday, December 30, 2013

The Economics of the Shoes-Off Rule?

Core Economics: No Shoes Allowed!

This is a really interesting essay, though it seems rather biased toward the anti-shoes-off position.

The author sets out to examine the cost-benefits of asking guests to remove their shoes. In her analysis, the actual economic benefits of guests removing shoes are minimal:

"This leads us to ponder the nature of the benefit. What is valuable about a clean floor? It is certainly true that maintaining some level of basic domestic cleanliness helps to contain diseases and prevent colonization by pests, but in the homes I have observed that feature the shoe take-off ritual, the general level of cleanliness is far above this basic level. Even if forty people were to come galloping through the typical shoe-take-off house in regular shoes (i.e., not having come right off a farm) for a party every weekend, I would expect no increase in pest colonization or disease prevalence provided that the household’s normal cleaning routines – say, a decent sweep or vacuum once or twice a week – continued. Then there is the question of the marginal wear and tear on carpeted floors caused by shoes: would a carpet stepped on by shoes at parties wear out more quickly than one stepped on only by socks or bare feet? A brief web search reveals that those in the industry believe that the lifespan of a carpet is far more affected by the owners’ innate propensity to redecorate, the type of carpet fiber, what is under the carpet, and whether the carpet is subject to regular cleaning, than by whether people walk upon it shod. Again, if regular cleaning continued, guests’ shoes should not be associated with worse outcomes."

This is a somewhat generalized analysis. In many cases, it will be true that homes with a shoes-off rule are kept clean to such high standards that allowing guests to keep their shoes on will not make very much difference at all. I do think there might be cases where this analysis is less applicable. For instance, some people with a shoes-off rule may not be 'clean freaks' at all, but people who work long hours with little time for cleaning. For them, the dirty shoes of guests might make a difference. Likewise, families with young children might be facing an uphill struggle to keep their homes clean and might benefit more from a shoes-off policy. There are also some homes which may receive visitors on a much more regular basis, such those of child-minders or religious ministers. For them, the economic benefits of a shoes off policy are higher than childless professional couples with reasonable spare time.

Having concluded that the economic returns of a shoes-off rule are low, the author suggests a number of psychological benefits to the owners of shoes-off homes:

1- The hosts are using the ritual to demand an `entry fee’ of their guests, which if paid (i.e,. if the guests do not turn on their heels and leave when asked to remove their shoes) places the hosts in an implicitly powerful position relative to their guests. The message is essentially, `if you agree to pay this price to enter my home, then what is available here must be valuable to you.’ 2- The hosts are signalling to guests their adherence to norms of extreme cleanliness that they believe are associated with membership in circles of success. They are hence basically trying to prove to their guests that they are people of standing. 3- The hosts are trying to prevent a rise in their own anxiety levels caused by the threat to their self-esteem that they would perceive if their floors were to become dirty. Ultimately this explanation boils down to social reasons, but for this explanation to be correct then the expectation of a clean house must have already been strongly internalized (through social conditioning) as a central part of the way the host views and judges himself, regardless of immediate social reward. 4 – The hosts derive pleasure from the sense of control over their environment that they derive from having perpetually spotless floors.

I would suggest that the host derives a much more tangible benefit. That is the benefit of consistency.

A consistently held shoes-off rule for the owners and their children will help to keep an home clean, even if guests are allowed to keep their shoes on. The problem is that rules tend to lapse when exceptions are made too frequently. If the hosts makes an exception for guests, then it becomes all too easy for them to occasionally make an exception for themselves and to enter with shoes on. They may find it harder to consistently enforce the rule for their children. Gradually, the policy slips away and dies a slow death. The standards the hosts once held ebb away.

The essay largely rests on an assumption that I would challenge, namely that the benefits of a shoes-off rule are only accrued by the host. The author writes:

"Now, given that a clean home is mainly enjoyed by those who live there, rather than by those who visit, any such benefits flow mainly to the hosts, meaning that we can immediately see that the entire exercise involves cost-shifting from the hosts – who would otherwise, perhaps, clean more – onto the guests."

Are there no benefits that the guests derive from a shoes-off rule? I think there are, at least for some guests. Firstly, some guests may enjoy the comfort and informality of going shoeless. Obviously, not all guests will feel that way, but some will. Secondly, some guests visiting a home where the rule is not enforced may be unsure of whether shoes should be removed or not. They may suspect the owner wants them off, but be unsure. Making the request provides a clarification that removes unnecessary anxiety. Thirdly, and in my opinion, most importantly, making a request for shoes-off implies that the host will show the guest the same courtesy should she visit her home. The guest knows that she is equally at liberty to require shoe removal from her own guests.

The author speaks of the guests 'bearing the cost' of the shoes-off policy, yet this cost is really rather low. The majority of people will not be bothered by having to remove their shoes. It is probably something they do in their own homes a lot of the time. There might be some people with holes in their socks or who are embarrassed by their feet, but this can generally be avoided as a problem if the guest knows in advance of the rule.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What does Good Housekeeping say?

Good Housekeeping: When It's Okay to Ask Guests to Take Off Their Shoes

Q. Is it all right to ask guests to remove their shoes? I hate cleaning up the dirt, salt, and mud that get tracked in.

For a casual get-together, it's fine to ask guests (nicely) to take off their shoes.

P.S. If you can, try to have extra pairs of nonskid socks or slippers on hand for those who feel uncomfortable (or embarrassed) exposing their bare feet. Say, "Would you like to trade your wet boots for some warm, dry slippers?" But for a more formal event, like a dinner party, where guests are dressing up, it's most polite to let them keep on whatever footwear they want to wear.

This is basically the moderate shoes-off position- shoes off, except at parties or formal occasions. Personally, I think shoes off at a formal dinner party is fine. Millionaires and celebrities wear tuxedos and ball gowns at yacht parties and still take their shoes off.

I must also express my doubts about the wisdom of offering slippers in the UK. Most British people would just think that is too weird and would rather be in socks or bare feet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

19 % of Britons don't like being asked to remove shoes?

Installer: One In Four People Dreading Spending Time In A Cold Room Away From Home

Forget Brussels sprouts and doing the washing up; visiting a relative’s cold house, being forced to take shoes off and missing Christmas TV are the nation’s biggest fears about the busy festive period.

Seeing friends and family at their cold home came out as Britain’s biggest bugbear in a survey from Worcester, Bosch Group with one in four people dreading spending time in a cold room away from home.

Despite being cold, and true to the stereotype, Brits are far too polite to complain, as only 20% said they would tell their host they are chilly. The rest would grin and bear it (30.8%), make a joke out of it (16%), keep their coat on (15.7%) or just avoid visiting the cold-blooded relatives at all (4.4%).

The next biggest gripes about Christmas, from the survey of 2065 people, were missing TV specials (22%), being made to take shoes off (19%) and tolerating screaming children (19%).

So 19% of the 2065 people dislike having to take their shoes off when visiting relatives? This may be surprising given that removing shoes in homes has become very common, however, that they are complaining about this shows that it is not at all unusual for shoes-off to be expected.

I do question whether these stats can be relied upon. The survey has an agenda; it was commissioned by a company that sells heating appliances and asks several questions about being cold. Probably the people answering these questions were being made to think about uncomfortable cold houses in which removing shoes might be an inconvenience.

Sunday, December 01, 2013 “Take off your shoes, please”…? “Take off your shoes, please”…?

In many countries like Germany, Switzerland, in Skandinavian countries etc. it is common use to take off the shoes when entering someone’s home(*). The custom of removing shoes is widespread also in Eastern countries like Japan, Korea and Turkey.

In these countries it is considered a major faux pas to walk through a house with shoes on. In some schools in Sweden, children are even required to remove their shoes.

The writer seems a little reserved about making shoes off a rule for guests, but otherwise has some good thoughts on the subject.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Socks more intimate than bare feet?

MannahattaMamma: Leave your shoes at the door

Blog post from an American living in Abu Dhabi. She makes the interesting suggestion that socked feet are more intimate than bare feet. She is possibly right. People's feet are often on display at pools or beaches, or when wearing sandals, but people in the west are generally less likely to be in their socks in public.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Probably Rachel: Looking Back: At Shoes

Probably Rachel: Looking Back: At Shoes

"We’re still a shoes-off house and will remain so, no matter how rude some people think it is. Around the holidays visiting increases, and being asked to remove your shoes when you enter someone’s home shouldn’t be a surprise. All of my Millennial generations friends whose houses and apartments I’ve been to are shoes-off. It’s common, so when you come over, feel free to bring slippers are sport some crazy socks!

And if you’re “needing” the height of a heeled shoe, think about this: I am 4′ 11″ tall and have never once felt the need to compensate with shoes when visit friends." Is it rude to ask your guests to take their shoes off? Is it rude to ask your guests to take their shoes off?

Article by Beth J. Harpaz

"NEW YORK—In Michigan, you're expected to leave snowy boots in the mudroom before going inside. In Alaska, boots are taken off in "Arctic entries." In Japan, Thailand and many other countries, you wouldn't dream of entering a home with your shoes on, regardless of the season.
But removing shoes before coming inside has not been the norm in much of the U.S.

These days, however, city dwellers and suburbanites from New York to Los Angeles often find that hosts expect footwear to be left at the door. Sometimes it's because of weather; other times, homeowners want to protect light-colored rugs and high-gloss wood floors from dirt and dings, or parents don't want street germs on floors where kids play."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Not in This House

Today I visited the home of an alcohol-using client with his social worker. This time I certainly did not take my shoes off, and neither did the social worker. The house was absolutely filthy, with dried vomit on much of the floor. Remarkably, the social worker said it was not as bad as she had expected. She must have seen homes in terrible conditions.

The carpet looked like it must have been very nice, if only it had been looked after.

However, most homes are not like that, so you should take your shoes off and expect others to do the same.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Rianovosti: Russian Woman Faces Trial for Slapping Barefoot Policeman – Prosecutors

Woman Faces Trial for Slapping Barefoot Policeman – Prosecutors

"MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian woman who hit a policeman in the face and forced him out of her apartment leaving him barefoot, has been charged with using violence against a police officer, prosecutors said Thursday.
The police officer knocked on the door of the 26-year-old woman’s apartment in the town of Shumerli in the Volga River republic of Chuvashia after her neighbors complained about loud music she had been playing at about 4 a.m. on June 24, the Chuvashian prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The woman refused to turn the music down, but let the policeman in, the statement said. After taking his shoes off, as visitors traditionally do when entering homes in Russia, the policeman turned the music off. That apparently enraged the woman, who hit him in the face and forced him out of the apartment – without his shoes.
Despite the officer’s pleas, she refused to let him back or return his shoes, abusing him with “unrepeatable cursing,” the statement said."

How very polite of the Russian police officer to remove his shoes before entering the house!

Sarah Rounding: 'Please Remove Your Coat and Shoes'

Sarah Rounding: 'Please Remove Your Coat and Shoes'

An interesting piece of artwork on this topic. The artist comments:

"In most peoples homes shoes are removed on entry but because I suffer from contamination OCD it becomes imperative that this rule is followed. This etiquette can be quite embarrassing for both parties; some will refuse or not realise and have to be asked to remove them, other people can be self conscious of their feet and will be anxious of removing their shoes in public.

I want this piece to ambiguous in its role leaving the viewer to question whether it should be used to hang their coats on or if they should remove their shoes as they enter the space. It follows a well defined practice of using readymade objects in a gallery context and this could cause the viewer to see it as the art object rather than experiencing it as something to interact with and use. I decided not to display any coats, shoes or hats as part of this installation to make it appear like a functional space for the viewer to use rather than a display, the only omission to that is the plant on the stand, which has symbolic connotations. Plants help filter the air and this plant in particular, the Peace Lily, removes harmful toxins such as formaldehyde, purifying the space without the use of harsh chemicals. The ambiguity of this piece of work will be what provokes a reaction within the viewer and this is why I have not included any instructions, which order the viewer to perform, just a simple request within the title of the work."

Monday, September 02, 2013

Canvassing this Evening

Every Monday evening, I go knocking on doors for the Conservative party.

This evening, I knocked on a house which had a 'Please Remove Your Shoes' sign. I don't see many of those, and when I do they are usually handwritten or typed. This was a stylish sign.

The lady turned out to be a Conservative voter which is encouraging. I told her I loved her sign.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nick Clegg's Heatwave Tip

Nick Clegg, our deputy prime minister, disclosed today that during Britain's current heatwave, he has been removing his shoes in his office, just like so many overheated office workers. It's nice to know that politicians are human just like us.

Why does one need to wear shoes in an office anyway?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rurally Screwed: The Shoe Free Home

Rurally Screwed: The Shoe Free Home

"I’d tried to implement a shoe free zone in our house for years but Jake always poo-pooed the idea. He thought it was asking too much to expect him to remove his dirty boots and muddy shoes every time he needed to come inside and get something to eat or fetch something. I had no choice but to let it go and get used to the fine layer of dirt and grit always on the bottom of my bare feet.

But after he came home from Afghanistan, he sort of fell into the shoes off routine without much coaxing from me. I like to think it’s because he came around to my point of view (because he knows I’m always right — yeah, right); a house is so much nicer without muddy tracks and shoe dirt everywhere. Especially in an environment like ours where we’re always stepping in chicken poop and mud and other nastiness."

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Wildly-Domestic: Shoe Debacle

Wildly-Domestic: Shoe Debacle

"When I was young my house had a no shoe rule. When friends came over I would ask them to please remove their shoes as I did the “my parents are insane” eye roll. Teenage attitude aside, the habit taught me to be courteous when entering other people’s homes. I would always hesitate when entering and ask “should I take off my shoes?” Now that I own a home and am the “maid” I can’t help but want to implement my own no shoe rule. I’ve been known to cringe as guests walk across my beautiful hardwood floors as squeaks echo up from their mildly wet shoes. Or to voice out an irritated “TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES!” when I know they’ve been trampsing through mud and/or snow. But it isn’t just mud and dirt that I (and you) should be worried about. There are a lot of other dangers lurking into your home on the soles of shoes."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mabel Kwong: Hi, I’m Asian. Come In, Leave Your Shoes On. Or Not

Mabel Kwong: Hi, I’m Asian. Come In, Leave Your Shoes On. Or Not

When an odd job or two needs to be done around our place, my mum welcomes the likes of contractors, plumbers and furniture delivery men into our Melbourne flat.

When she opens the door, these Caucasian handymen and tradesmen always politely ask, “Do we take our shoes off?”

And to my utter surprise and disbelief, each time my mum cheerily says, “No, no, no! It’s OK! Come in! Leave your shoes on!”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Roberto Cavalli and Cannes 2013

The Cannes Film Festival was hit by heavy rain this year. While this did not stop all the usual celebrity yacht parties, they were not quite what they were last year.

As a result of the heavy rain, Roberto Cavalli, fashion guru and world-class party host, made an exception one night and permitted celebrity guests to come on his luxury yacht with their shoes on. Apparently the decks were seriously marred by stiletto traffic.

I'm sure the glitterati are hoping for better weather next year and some stiletto-free boat parties!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Interesting Post about Shoe Removal in France


'It’s a tale as old as time. Girl meets Boy. Girl marries Boy. Girl moves to France where Boy lives. Girl is Korean so doesn’t wear shoes in the house. After many years, several arguments over cultural mores, and two babies, Girl convinces Boy to grudgingly happily accept that no one can wear shoes in the house. Girl starts noticing other French people doing the same in their homes. Girl feels victorious and almost like a cultural ambassador, which has always been her dream—that, and being an astronaut.

This is a true story.

Yes, I’m that horrible hostess who forces guests, visitors, deliverymen and construction workers to doff their shoes at my door. I told Dman the other day that I’m so very Americanized but this is one area—along with mainlining kimchi—where I’ve remained 100% Korean. I can’t apologize for A) being raised to take off my shoes indoors and B) knowing that tracking the shit from outside onto the floors where my baby crawls is dirty and gross.'

Saturday, May 11, 2013


I went out on a brief walk today, wearing a pair of slightly old flip flops. When I came back. the soles were completely embedded with stones and bits of grit. Just imagine if i had walked into somebody's house wearing those shoes!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Integrative Mom: Mahalo For Removing Your Shoes

Integrative Mom: Mahalo For Removing Your Shoes

'So this morning when he asked me “why do we take our shoes off when we go inside our house, but other people don’t take theirs off when they go inside their houses?” instead of giving him all of the reasons we do, I responded with, I guess because we’re part-Hawaiian.

To which he quickly replied, “but I’m not part-Hawaiian, I’m part New York!”

Yes, yes you are. Even more reason to leave your shoes at the door.

The truth is, we never wore shoes in our house growing up because my Hawaiian-Chinese mother never wore shoes in her house growing up. So it is simply a habit I’ve done all my life. Now, in retrospect, I am so thankful it is one that has stuck for many reasons.

I didn’t want to go into excruciating detail with my son about everything that he could possibly track inside our home if he wore his shoes inside, but I will do it here.'

Clarity Zone Magazine: Please Remove Your Shoes

Clarity Zone Magazine: Please Remove Your Shoes

'Now if you don’t give a hoot about pollutants, let me make an appeal to you on behalf of your floors, which can be permanently damaged by your precious Louboutins. Shoes can not only mark your delicate floors but also bring in dirt and small rocks which can easily gouge them. And on brand new wood floors, this is just sacrilegious!

Along with the potential damage come dirty floors. Or even worse, just imagine your plush white carpet speckled with stains of the nasty kind. Ewww! By simply removing your shoes, you can keep your floors and carpets looking clean longer…and use your Swiffer stash a lot less!

In case the expression cleanliness is next to godliness has no place in your lexicon, then just imagine living below someone who wears her, or his if you live in the City of Angels, heels on a wood floor. Doesn’t it make you cringe when you’re trying to catch some extra Zs in the morning, but the loud high heel clicks just won’t oblige? I think we can all agree that no one wants to be on the receiving end of a high heel’s wrath, so kindly leave the click clackers at the door'

Malaysian Meanders: Please Remove Your Shoes

Malaysian Meanders: Please Remove Your Shoes

"Ummm... Do you mind taking off your shoes?"

'Growing up in Houston, Texas, those words always seemed strange and awkward coming out of my mouth. My parents' house is strictly No Shoes Allowed, and as a child, this always seemed to set us apart. Sure, my aunts and uncles had the same rule. My parents' Filipino friends did, too. Grown-up parties with my folks were always marked by a huge pile of shoes at the door. But none of my friends ever made this request. I only realized this custom extended way beyond my family's circle of influence when I first entered the home of my Taiwanese friend in high school. She was surprised that I didn't automatically remove my shoes. "You're Chinese," she said, "you should know to take them off."

After I was married and had my own home, I instigated the No Shoes rule, too. When we visited Hawaii, I considered buying a plaque that said, "Please remove your shoes. It's the Hawaiian way." Except that a) I'm not Hawaiian; and b) I don't live in Hawaii. So, I couldn't figure out how I would justify that reasoning.

By the time I became a mother, non-Asians seemed to be jumping on the No Shoes bandwagon. Baby playgroup discussions covered concerns with thimerosal in vaccinations and phthalates in plastics. Leaving our shoes at the door was a way to keep environmental toxins out of the home. And of course, it's de rigueur for the kiddos to go shoeless at almost any indoor playscape.'

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tales of a Garlic and Onion Lover- Mix-up Monday: House Shoes

Tales of a Garlic and Onion Lover- Mix-up Monday: House Shoes

'When you go to a house in Germany the odds are you will be asked to take off your shoes. Additionally, you may be given house shoes (slippers) to wear while you are visiting.'

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Triel Baenre

A picture of Triel Baenre, Matron Mother and ruler of Menzoberranzan in the Forgotten Realms novels. In a scene in Siege of Darkness, Triel Baenre asks Jarlaxle to remove his shoes before stepping on her carpet.

I commissioned the excellent Joseph Guiterrez to draw this.

Triel Baenre was created by R.A. Salvatore. Forgotten Realms is the property of Wizards of the Coast.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Organised Home- Challenge Day 11: Stop Dirt at the Door

Organised Home- Challenge Day 11: Stop Dirt at the Door

'While entrance mats can remove much of the soil from the bottom of shoes, a considerable amount of dirt still clings to footwear worn outside.

A "no shoes" policy keeps that soil contained near the front door, instead of inviting it in to curl up on carpets and furniture.'

Friday, January 25, 2013

Property Inspection

A lady from the lettings agency came to inspect the apartment I rent today. It was the first time I had been present when an inspection was carried out.

The lady removed her shoes without being asked. She had visited before, so she would have seen my 'Please Take Off Your Shoes' doormat.

She was a nice lady, though I hope she gives a good report on how I am looking after the place.

Another Colleague

Another drug worker I work with told me she has a no-shoes rule in her house. She asks people to take their shoes off when they come in.

She told me she once that she visited the home of a client. Although it was not a terribly clean house, she offered to remove her boots as the weather was bad, an offer that was declined.