There are two kinds of people in the world: those that take their shoes off upon entering a house, and those that don’t.
In my opinion, the best ones are the ones that fall into Category A. To me it feels entirely unnatural to, say, cook whilst wearing shoes. Whether they be Birkenstocks, baby dolls or boots, taking off your shoes is a sign that you’re comfortable. It’s like going into a friend’s kitchen and making tea for everyone assembled, or offering to make the salad while the hostess flutters around doing finishing touches. Bare feet to me say warmth, sincerity and cosiness. When I go out dancing or for a drink, my shoes are the last part of my outfit. I almost feel that I am jumping the gun by putting them on before it is time to go. And all of my favourite people, whether they realise it or not, are naturally inclined towards the barefoot persuasion. It’s like an unuttered sub-culture of people – those to whom cooking in clogs or eating in espadrilles is simply not natural.
I had a boyfriend – he of huge, magnificent feet, feet of distinction – who refused to take off his shoes in my house. He always said his feet were cold, and I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t just his size 11’s that were chilly – did he not feel warm enough to relax in my home? I would wake up on a Saturday morning and he’d be in the kitchen, fully clothed, shoes and socks in pride of place, whipping up an omelette. The shoes ruined the otherwise near-pastoral picture for me. And it wasn’t just because they were unsightly, unabashedly functional shoes that I already detested. I should have seen it as a sign immediately: he was a member of Category B – those that keep their kicks on indoors!
The experience that cemented this sociological observation for me was when I met another man, who was visibly taken with the fact that I took my shoes off while we had coffee at my apartment. The contrast between the heels I had worn to dinner earlier that night and my now-bare toes incited a tender, disbelieving grin that I so recognised. I walked him to his car, parked on the dark street corner, barefoot, not knowing if I’d ever see him again. And it was perfect, a perfect goodbye. Heightened by bare feet and the realisation that I had just met another Category A candidate. And that this fact – this quaint commonality – could be the foundation for myriad other things in common.
Call it what you will. You may well now start to frown at your boyfriend’s be-sneakered feet beneath the dining room table, or worry that if you are indeed a Category B candidate, does this mean you are cool and ill at ease? I can’t speak for the shoe-wearers. But do take note the next time someone asks if they may remove their Cons or Hasbeens in your home. If they haven’t just had a pedicure, you may be in the presence of some true Category A greatness.