The proliferation of “no bare feet”

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By Kriss
Western North Carolina

I’m old enough to have actually seen and experienced changes in attitudes toward bare feet in the last half century. So maybe I can provide a little information and insight.

The reason the U.S. in general is so uptight about bare feet is due to the proliferation of “no bare feet” signs, which began sometime in the early ’70s. So, as of the current day in the U.S, generations have grown up seeing these signs and being convinced there has to be something inherently bad about bare feet. Otherwise why would there be signs? And then the signs that also include some reference to the “health department” convince them that bare feet are unhealthy as well.

But it wasn’t a negative attitude against bare feet that started the signs; it was the signs that started the negative attitude against bare feet. And it all started with hippies and the Vietnam War. The thing is, the hippies were synonymous with anti-government and anti-Vietnam War sentiments in the minds of most conservative mainstream Americans.

From Wikipedia:
“The war had a major impact on U.S. politics, culture and foreign relations. Americans were deeply divided over the U.S. government’s justification for, and means of fighting, the war. Opposition to the war contributed to the counterculture youth movement of the 1960s.”

The signs started as a way to keep these people out of many businesses – not because of their bare feet or other non-conformist attire – but due to their political views and anti-establishment lifestyles. They were considered un-American by many conservative business owners, but since our constitution guarantees free speech, it was difficult to stop their outspoken opposition. One way that evolved was to attack their mode of dress, which was as unconventional as their views. Bare feet or no shirts in public places, though not necessarily commonplace before that period, were nonetheless never an issue of health or cleanliness or any reason to ban anyone from entering a business. However, as it became apparent that the hated hippies quite often went barefoot, and perhaps shirtless as well on occasion, this unconventional manner of dress gave many conservative thinking businesses an easy way to identify, isolate, and ostracize what many felt was a dangerous
political movement.

The idea of banning these undesirables based on their attire caught on, and at some point somebody came up with a “cleverly” worded sign using the word “NO” in large letters to cover two instances of unconventional attire that would result in not being served. It’s interesting that “shoes,” “shirt,” and “service” all begin with the same letter, and placing the same word in front of each results in a succinct and cleverly alliterative discriminatory dress code. They probably would rather have used “no entry” or “no admittance” instead of “no service,” but that just wouldn’t have rolled off the tongue quite as well.

So, in other words, those signs and those attitudes started out as political statements, not dress codes based on any reason that may be claimed today, such as health, laws, liability, etc. People of today’s generation have no clue as to how or why they got started. They just assume that’s the way it’s always been and always should be, without even giving it a second thought – and that’s a shame.

There was no Vietnam War issue or protestors in other parts of the world – at least nothing like the political upheaval in the U.S. So other parts of the world never started posting signs; so other parts of the world never got brainwashed into believing that bare feet are a bad thing.

That’s how it all got started in the U.S.

health dept sign

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A wonderful world of living with bare feet

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