|Shoeless Windsors putting on a good face of it . . .|
The few times I have attended a party where I've been asked to remove my shoes at the door have been rather unpleasant, and my primary memory of attending such party is the discomfort (and consequent annoyance) I felt walking around shoeless, rather than what should have been happy memories of enjoyment. In my experience, hosts who make such a request of their guests do so because they are concerned that their guests' shoes will soil or damage their precious floors or carpets. Such self-absorbed myopia is misguided, in my view. As a host, I believe one's primary concern should be the comfort and well-being of one's guests, and not the impact their shoes might have on one's floors or carpets.
Because floors and carpets are meant to be walked on. By people wearing shoes.
We have nicely finished floors at Darlington House which are, at least in some rooms, covered with expensive carpets. It would never occur to me to ask our guests to remove their shoes and walk around in their stocking feet, or worse—barefoot!
Reggie once attended a party where the host and hostess announced upon his arrival, much to his dismay, that all attendees were expected to remove their shoes. They explained that they wanted to preserve the Zen-like purity of their wonderful house. I had the misfortune of arriving wearing loafers without socks (the party was held during the height of summer). Not only was I put out to find myself required to walk around their house barefoot, but their (rugless) floors were less than Zen-like in their cleanliness (well, actually they were rather dirty), so the soles of my feet became filthy over the course of the evening. While it was unpleasant to walk around their house barefoot (and just imagine what it was like to use their less-than-hygenic guest bathroom), having to insert my soiled feet into my shoes at the end of the evening made it yet an even worse experience. I still shudder when I recall it.
"But Reggie," you may ask, "what about during bad weather, when the streets and sidewalks are wet and gritty? I don't want people tracking it all over my house!" Well, Dear Reader, then I suggest you concentrate your invitations on people who can be expected to wipe their feet carefully before entering (which means that you must supply them with the necessary means to do so), or who would be likely to bring a clean pair of shoes with them to change into. Many of the ladies who attend cocktail or dinner parties at Darlington House during inclement weather arrive with a pair of party pumps to change into. Even if one or two of your guests don't do a thorough job of wiping their feet and track in a bit of grime with them, there's nothing like a quick vacuuming after the party to address such matter.
And for those of my readers who may be concerned that a guest's stiletto heels will ruin your floors, Reggie wonders: what floors would be so soft that high heels would dent them? Don't punish the rest of your guests by making everyone remove their shoes in the off chance that some thoughtless ninny will arrive wearing stilettos (or "Prossie Trotters" as my esteemed fellow blogger Tabitha of Bourbon and Pearls deliciously calls them).
Now, Reggie is well aware that some hosts provide their guests with slippers to wear under such circumstances. While I acknowledge that doing so is an improvement to requiring one's guests to go shoeless, it isn't an ideal solution, in my view. I don't know about you, but I don't care for wearing previously worn slippers. "What," you might ask, "does Reggie think about providing one's guests with disposable slip-on protective booties to wear?" He thinks that by that point your mania for protecting your floors and carpets has reached such a level of lunacy that you should either contact a psychiatrist for an immediate consultation or to get your meds dosage upped!
Now, I do acknowledge that there are a number of circumstances where it is appropriate to ask someone to remove their shoes upon their arrival at your house, as follows:
1. When your floors have been recently refinished and have not yet thoroughly cured (but who throws a party under such circumstances?);
2. When said arrival is a workman wearing sturdy, lug-soled boots, and not a social guest;
3. When it is the cultural custom of the host and guest to remove their shoes, such as in Japan (but that does not apply to these shores, unless one has the good fortune of being entertained in a perfect, tatami-matted, Japanese tea house); and
4. When said guest arrives wearing Prossie Trotters that would damage the floors. But, then, one should endeavor to make sure that such an undesirable is not a "guest" in one's house, unless the explicitly understood purpose of their visit is to have them remove everything they are wearing as quickly as possible.
All funning aside, Dear Reader, Reggie believes that one should never ask one's guests to remove their shoes as a requirement for gaining entry to one's house, particularly during parties. One can certainly expect (and request, if needed) one's guests to wipe their feet (as all thoughtful guests should without prompting) but one ought never ask one's guests to take off their shoes and walk around one's house in their stocking feet, or—even worse—barefoot. It's just not done.
And that is a Reggie Rule.
Tell me, Dear Reader, don't you agree?
Photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Philippe Halsman, courtesy of LIFE Images