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.
Some guests find the request irksome — especially at holiday parties when they’re dressed up. “But this is an outfit!” squeals Carrie Bradshaw in a “Sex and the City” episode when asked to take off her shoes at a baby shower. (Insult to injury: Her high-heeled Manolos are stolen during the party.)
Shalena Broaster of Philadelphia — whose friends call her “the diva” — says her first thought when asked to remove shoes is: “I just pray I have a fresh pedicure!” Since she’s only 5 feet tall, she also misses the height her stilettos provide.
Classy hosts with a no-shoes rule hand out “guest socks” or inexpensive slippers that folks can take home. But please don’t offer Broaster your old tube socks. “Nasty!” she said.
Rachel Kerstetter of Cleveland wrote on her blog, ProbablyRachel.com, that guests sometimes make her feel “like a criminal” for asking them to remove shoes. She offered 10 reasons why her household is “shoes-free,” including preserving the carpet, allowing guests to relax and put their feet up, and keeping allergens out of the house along with “grass, leaves, mud, dirt, bugs, gum, oil, tar and yes, even animal poo.”
For everyday comings and goings, Kerstetter and her husband use a mudroom by the back door. For company, they put a shoe rack in a small foyer near the front door.
“We like to walk around barefoot and we want to have our home clean,” Kerstetter said. She “didn’t grow up in a no-shoes household, but my parents taught me to ask” the host’s preference before entering.
Another must for shoes-off parties: Put a chair by the door. Don’t make guests hop unbalanced on one shoe while taking off the other. And put out a shoe rack so footwear doesn’t end up in a pile.
Adi Bittan planned her wedding at the home of friends in Pescadero, Calif., before realizing that the hosts had a no-shoes rule. “We were worried how that would look and whether our guests would feel uncomfortable or embarrassed,” she said. She solved the problem by buying fun socks — with no-skid soles — as one of the wedding favors. Even she and the groom wore them.
“Guests young and old ended up loving it,” she said. “They compared colors, took photos with their fun socks on and were excited to take them home.” Some of the women even thanked her for saving them from excruciating high heels.
But the pro-shoes crowd doesn’t buy the no-shoes reasoning. If you’re worried about wood floors, they say, invest in inexpensive rugs. Protecting a white carpet? Roll it up. Tracked-in dirt? Mop or vacuum.
“It is the height of tacky to invite guests to your home and then require that they remove anything more than outdoor attire,” said Jodi R.R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, Mass. “It is one thing to ask me to leave my L.L. Bean boots at the door for a Super Bowl party held during a snowstorm in New England. It is another to ask me to remove my heels at a cocktail party where everyone is dressed in suits and dresses.”
If you must ban shoes, says Smith, the invitation should say so. “Guests should not be surprised by your request,” she said. Imagine the mortification of a guest whose socks have holes.
Jessica Gottlieb of Los Angeles says she is “disgusted when people want me to take my shoes off in their home. ... OK, I get it for upstairs areas or bedrooms or even if you’re Japanese. But if you’re my American friend who just wants a clean floor, forget about it. It’s a power play and no, you don’t get to undress me.”
“My shoes are there,” she added, “to keep me comfortable, cute and free of your foot fungus.”