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From: P.R.

Date: 7-3-2017

Subject: Origins of shoe requirements in the U.S.

In answer to the question: “Why do locations which are adamant about wearing shoes for “protection” allow sandals/flip-flops, even though such a foot can suffer from any injury a bare foot can?

Good question.  It’s a bit complicated, based, in part, on unique social and historical events in the U.S..

Issues with seeing a barefooted person in *unexpected* (key point!) public places have to do primarily with fashion and negative connotations that some have with bare feet (e.g., poverty, dirt, rebellion, etc.).

Objections based on “safety,” “health,” or other excuses developed to rationalize the objection to seeing bare feet.

Plus, those who wear shoes regularly have tender feet and thus perceive the ground as rough, dangerous and uncomfortable.  So they naturally assume that everyone perceives it that way (a seasoned barefooter, of course, does not).

However, the rude “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs make it clear that fashion and “decorum” dictate the objection to bare feet—but even then, only in certain contexts.

Most Americans have no objection to seeing bare feet–or even going bare foot–at a beach or swimming pool, or at a yoga studio, dance studio, or martial arts facility.  But show up barefoot in a library or store and suddenly some will assume that one’s health and safety are in dire jeopardy!   No, it just boils down to context.

The signs and policies (unique to the U.S.!) prohibiting bare feet developed in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as a largely political objection to hippies, those opposed to the Vietnam war, and others deemed by appearance as “undesirable.”   None of this had to do with health or safety.

Now, many have forgotten all this (or never knew it).  They just see the signs, assume they’re about health and safety and accept that as a “given” (well, at least in certain places).