|Shoe Etiquette: Definitions for the Clothing & Footwear Industry|
Is it proper shoe etiquette wearing hooker boots to the opera?
In most parts of the world (Asia, Eastern Europe, parts of the Middle East and Africa, much of Northern Europe and Canada, as well as Alaska) it is customary to remove shoes when returning to one's own home or visiting others. In the US it is not a "custom", but it is very common. People do this to avoid tracking in dirt, mud, snow, or other unpleasant things stepped on in the street. This is because people in most countries wish to keep their homes and carpets clean. On the other hand, in some countries (e.g. the US and Western Europe) some people are displeased if others take shoes off in their company. It is often explained by foot odor. However, some Americans leave their shoes on when returning to their own home, even if there is no one around to offend by potential foot odor. This practice is however unhygenic, as it exacerbates the odor by providing ideal conditions for fungal infections such as athlete's foot and other diseases of the feet. In almost all parts of the world, people will remove their shoes if they have been walking through snow or mud; this applies to countries where the "foot odor" stigma exists as well. It might be mentioned that foot odor results partly from wearing shoes for many hours; this is a possible explanation for the "foot odor" fear in countries where shoes are worn for most of the day. People in these countries sometimes do not remove their shoes until they absolutely must, for example, bathing or going to sleep. However foot odor can develop in even a short amount of time, and depends also on the type of socks, shoes and the individual.
People wearing specialized types of shoes, such as snow boots, work boots, or high heels, often remove their shoes upon returning to their homes. This is true even in countries where shoes are not normally taken off.
In the Middle East and Thailand, it is considered rude to show the soles of the feet to others (even accidentally, such as by crossing the legs). In addition, in Thailand, it is an extreme insult for the foot, socks, or shoes to touch someone's head or be placed over it. Although feet touching heads is an extremely rare occurrence in any society, some Muay Thai boxers insult each other by "kicking" the opponent's head with their foot (most Muay Thai kicks are executed with the shin).
Sitting in trains it is often allowed to put one's feet on the opposite seat, provided that one takes one's shoes off or put them on a newspaper, piece of clothing, bag, etc., to avoid possible dirtying of the seat. Many people in Western countries put their feet up on the seat in front of them in movie theaters, although this is considered rude by some.
See also dress code.
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