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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: Must I remove my shoes in other people's homes?

"I don't mind taking off snowy boots when I’m visiting someone else's home, but I don’t think it’s necessary when my shoes are clean and dry."

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Ani Castillo / For Metro

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Dear Ellen,

I don't mind taking off snowy boots when I’m visiting someone else's home, but I don’t think it’s necessary when my shoes are clean and dry. Is it rude for people to ask their guests to take off their shoes year-round? Or is it rude of me to keep them on until I'm forced to remove them?


Dear SJ,

I share your resentment at removing footwear in other people’s homes. It’s particularly galling when the home also houses pets. I sometimes wonder if my pet-owning friends have a secret agenda to save time on vacuuming by having guests like me traipse around in socks that pick up dirt, dog hair and cat dander by the fistful.

I also hate taking off my shoes in homes that are not adequately heated. Hmm, it now occurs to me there may be another secret agenda at work there: i.e., making sure guests don’t linger for fear of freezing off their tootsies on stone-cold floors.

Then there’s the problem of destroying a carefully thought-out ensemble. As you are no doubt aware, shoes are the defining detail of any elegant outfit, and removing them can spoil the entire effect. Drapey trousers or a long skirt meant to float above a heel are suddenly sweeping the floor. And if those floors are slippery, there’s a falling hazard as well.

Finally, there’s the problem of the giant wet-shoe jumble after a big party, that magical Canadian ritual of sodden guests stumbling around a filthy foyer, socks getting soaked in salty puddles while searching for their sodden boots. Someone always leaves wearing someone else’s Blundstones. (I myself managed to wear a mismatched set home after one raucous evening.) Shout out here to thoughtful hosts who provide plastic bags with numbers on them for guests to store their boots in and keep the melting contained.

What do you think?

My point, SJ, is that you and I are indisputably in the right here about the unreasonable expectation to go shoeless in other people’s homes.

Alas, being right does not entitle one to be rude. Out of consideration for the kind souls who have invited us into their homes, we must always offer to remove our shoes, and cheerfully do so if the answer is yes.

As for any resentment you may feel, a simple shoe bag will solve the problem. Pack your own slippers or high heels, and never go shoeless again.

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