A few years ago I happened to catch a doctor on the radio who was railing passionately about the evils of wearing outdoor shoes in the home. By traipsing through your home in fresh-from-the-street shoes, you were effectively transferring any and all types of filth—gum, dirt, oil, spit, other things—from the street into your personal space, which really should really be kept as pure as possible, dirtwise and vibewise.
He convinced me. I’ve been a practitioner of the no-shoe domicile for a while and wouldn’t dream of going back to having that level of grossness imported inside again. Levels of grossness of course, being relative to where you live. Cape Cod; not so bad, maybe some sand or a spot of soil. Manhattan or Downtown Los Angeles; unprintable.
I’ve noticed that in the U.S. it is increasingly common to visit homes that are no-shoe homes. That is, you leave your shoes at the door for all the reasons your hosts might desire: the basic hygiene argument outlined above, heels carving up a soft wood floor, an addiction to white shag carpets, and so forth.
Here are a few ways to gracefully adapt to or advocate a no-shoe house, either as a guest or host:
-Ask. After stepping into the entrance or foyer of someone’s home, ask if they prefer for you to remove your shoes. If they run a no-shoe house, they’ll love you. On a related note, recently I’ve had the fortune of befriending several lovely women of Japanese descent, who tell me that in Japan it is standard for a guest to remove his or her shoes before stepping into the main area of the house. Always.
-Offer House Shoes. As host of a no-shoe house, it is wise to keep a few pairs of house shoes, slides or slippers on hand to offer guests who might not want to walk around barefoot or in their socks. Keep at least two sizes on hand, one that will fit men and one for females. A great bachelor buddy of mine offers female visitors their choice from a basket filled with new, silken mules in a range of sizes, a gift to take home if they wish. I’ve never seen the basket he offers males, but I’m sure it’s equally as class. If you’re interested in this route, you can get house slippers in small lots, in an array of sizes, on ebay or even at discount and stores specializing in imported goods.
-BYOS, or Bring Your Own Slippers. Particularly if you’re going to be staying overnight or longer at someone’s home, and don’t feel comfortable mincing around the dining room in your bunny ear slippers (please don’t), bring a pair of grown up house shoes, flip-flops or slides to wear around the house. I have a totable pair that fit in almost any purse, take up nearly nil room in luggage and work with almost any ensemble, stylewise. Personalize yours if you wish by wearing an exotic or monogrammed pair.
For women. I love dainty leather Khussa slippers and shoes, which are easy to slide in your overnight bag, ornate and pretty. They are easy to carry with you and can be slipped on quickly. They are typically hand made, leather and beaded, with flat leather soles that are easy on any floor. You can also wear them on the plane if you wish. And when you tire of them, they can become street shoes, though I’d slip an insole in them for comfort.
Alternately, indulge in the totable or roll-up flat phenomenon that has made its way into the market the last few seasons and buy a pair of these sassy, take-it-with-you shoes, which have practical glamour implications far beyond the home, such as at the office or in the car. Though I have not personally tried any of these, I am aware of Fast Flats by Dr. Scholl’s (approximately $8-10), Delicate Soles (about $16) and Rollasole (about $20), though there are many other makers of these.
For men. Offer the menfolk a pair of cool indoor footwear that won’t embarrass them, either in the form of slides or house slippers. Admittedly this is a taller order than finding indoor footwear for women, since there are fewer options for men. You might want to offer something with a cool motif or keep it basic with a few pairs of rubber Adidas slides, which you can get for about $20 a pair and are easy to wash and reuse for other guests.
Lastly, the interesting blog Shoes Off at the Door Please lists the plusses of the no-shoe house. I happen to like #25: “Psychologically, removing your shoes helps you to enter a frame of mind where you keep your everyday troubles outside your home.” Hear, hear.