Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Culture of Costumes

I just finished an interview with Proof Negative on FreedomizerRadio. Proof and I and Bob Neinast were contemplating why going barefoot in public is still considered taboo by so many people in America. Obviously, I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few years, but I recently came to a new realization which may partly explain the phenomenon: we are a culture of costumes.

Think about it. We have a costume, er… uniform, for almost every occupation: policeman, nurse, fireman, priest, janitor, doctor, soldier, scientist, businessman… the list could be very long. Perhaps the only ones to really escape the costume party are the artsy types; they are instead often known for their lack of conformity (we call it creativity).*

Even when we’re not working we are dressed up in costume to identify ourselves: slut, gangsta, prep, nerd, redneck, jock, church lady… this list is long, too, and each group has their own costume.Nearly all of these costumes – at work or at play – include shoes. Without shoes the costume is incomplete and for all but that most diverse group of non-conforming, artsy types an incomplete costume is unacceptable.

Fortunately, our costumes can and do change over time; it’s called fashion.

For the health of our feet and for the sake of our personal freedoms, let’s make bare feet an acceptable part of our costumes.  You can help by going barefoot this Saturday, June 11, which just happens to be Your Day Without Shoes. Of course, you can also buy and share a copy of The Barefoot Book. ;-)

*Intellectuals tend to avoid costumes, too. One reason I became a professor is because profs are high in creativity and low in conformity. Indeed, it seems the more ‘rigid’ the uniform the less creativity is usually involved in the task. This is not always a bad thing, but it’s clearly not always a good thing, either.


  1. I'm a maverick (nonconformist); not a slave to fashion. I dress how I want, how I feel fine. But at work, I have to wear a white coat, white trousers and white leather shoes that do not like at all, they do get hot and smell. What patients think if they saw a pharmacist barefoot (me) ?

  2. Why is a costume incomplete without shoes? Have you analysed this? Why is it probably complete without a hat or without gloves, but not without shoes?

  3. "Costumes" are more than that. They can also give us our cultural identity, and it seems to be well-ingrained in our genes, since all cultures throughout the world have their costumes to help identify ingroups and outgroups. Just think of various indigenous people, in which earlobe stretching helps identify them as part of their group, or where a simple string holding up the penis is the only clothing the men might wear, or even styles of tattoos on specific locations.

    It makes them part of the group -- it binds the group together. It helps identify outsiders, which can be important to a tribe for defensive purposes.

    And here in America (and much of the western world), wearing shoes is part of that cultural identification. And when folks see barefooters out-of-context (e.g., bare feet are still ok at the beach), the deep visceral reaction, built into us, screams: outsider! Prepare to defend the tribe!

    Or, at least, that is what I suspect is going on.

    Of course, such an ingrained reaction no longer really serves us. But it can also give us hope that as people get more used to bare feet in wider environs, that reaction will fade away.

  4. Bare feet are part of my daily costume. I am I only when I'm barefoot. In shoes, I feel like a... ox !

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Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.