The act of removing your shoes when coming into a home is a common practice in many cultures. However, for people who didn't grow up with this practice, it may take some getting used to. Here's an easy tip to make both guests and hosts more comfortable.
Recently a Modern Manners Guy Facebook friend named Kathy sent me an email about the annoyance of having to remove her shoes when visiting a friend’s house for a dinner party. On one occasion, she wore a very expensive pair of heels that she purchased just for the event, and now her entire outfit was ruined by having to remove the shoes at the door.
But the biggest beef Kathy had with the whole shoe removal request wasn’t having to go sans fancy heels, it was the mere sight of the Shoe Bin - a messy pile of random dirty shoes from other visitors which her shoes would be mingling with. Kathy takes great care of her shoes and from the looks of the other footwear, the other guests don't. Kathy was worried about her new, clean, swanky shoes getting scuffed and mangled from the other inhabitants of the bin.
Although I'm not as much of a shoe connoiseur as Kathy, I totally understand her point. And I don’t think a bin is the proper way to do this. If you're going to ask people to remove their shoes upon entering your home, you should provide a clean space where guests can easily place their footwear in a row, where they are not toppling on one another. But other than that, I don’t see the big deal with having to take your shoes off.
In fact, there is no option here. If you are a guest at someone's home and they ask you to take off your shoes - just do it. It’s their home, so it’s their rules. If they asked you to remove your hat, you do it too. If they asked you to rub the head of their ceramic Buddha sculpture for good luck, before entering – you do it. You can’t argue simple rules that someone has for respecting their house. I mean, are you really going to sit there and debate it with them? Do you really think you’re going to win? No, you will not. It’s not that big of a deal and not the end of the world. Now, if someone asks you to remove your pants…that’s a whole other issue (and in that case, I would leave immediately) but shoes are not.
So, to make things easier, I propose a healthy medium for the host and the guest.
If you are going to have a large group of people over at your house, and you plan on requesting that people remove their shoes when entering, you have to first understand it will make some people uncomfortable. To lessen this discomfort, simply email people ahead of time and let them know of your house rules. Add a casual request in the invitation. Something like, “Please bring your hippest pair of socks or slippers to wear since we are a shoe-free house.”
Or, to make it real party, offer a new pair of fun socks or slippers for everyone to wear that night (and take home if they like). This way, guests won’t feel weird about having to remove their shoes, and you won’t have guests walking around barefoot or with holey socks.
This is an easy and surefire way to keep everyone happy and your house clean and free of street grime.
For more of Modern Manners Guy's tips for a polite life, check out quickanddirtytips.com/modern-manners-guy.