The Non-Shoe Movement


Something rather alarming has been happening. On my way to the metro station for the last few months, I pass a man who does not wear shoes. He wears nice pants or shorts, carries a backpack and wears a nice shirt. He just doesn’t wear shoes.

Why doesn’t he wear shoes?

Just to be clear, we’re talking about a sidewalk in the city. A place riddled with broken bottles and nails. Rocks and stones are everywhere. It’s not even fun walking this route in shoes. Isn’t there a time and place to go shoeless? I could get on board if we were prancing through a dewy meadow or wandering along a sandy path to a beach. But Pražského povstání?

OK, I mean, I get it. He’s free, while my feet are slaves to the constriction of fake leather. He’s one with the earth and I’m wearing mankind’s snow tires and unconnected to Mother Earth. I’ve only seen one other non-shoer. It was about 25 years ago, I was working in a Pittsburgh restaurant, and a hippie came in to fill out an application. She was wearing what looked to be a potato sack and was wearing no shoes.

“She’d have to wear shoes during her shift, right?” I asked the manager.

“There won’t be any shifts,” he’d said.

I felt then as I do now: that non-shoers consider themselves above the rest of us shoemongers. It’s the same way I feel when someone makes it a point to tell me they’re vegan, voted for Jill Stein, or eat all organic food. Of course it’s not important to me, but I feel like they’re looking down their noses at the rest of us.

I know. I know. This says more about me than it does them; but still, what weenies.

I am aware of the fact that this guy’s life choice in terms of footwear does not affect me in any way. But I have to admit that while I always like the free spirit in the movies, the unique oddball who is just a bit different from the rest of the gang, in real life I am just wondering what prompts this guy to forego shoes in the city.

There are other questions. One of which is this: What can I do to up the ante on him? I could walk to the metro with my underwear on my head or maybe no pants at all. I could pretend I’m on Berkeley’s campus and wear nothing except a smile, a backpack, and a chip on my shoulder. And how would he react if I did that? Would he think me mad? Would he go home to his shoeless wife and his shoeless kids and tell them about this arrogant nudist who thinks he’s better than the rest of us?

I know that I should be more of a free spirit new agey kind of guy, but I’m not. I wear shoes, eat hotdogs, and voted for the second place winner. I watch bad TV sitcoms, love Harry Potter (Go Ravenclaw!), and like mystery books. I’m a very ordinary conformist. That took a lot to say aloud. Next I’ll be complaining about the haircuts of the youth and their newfangled technology. My last question is this: in this country of house shoes, what does he wear indoors?

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