Going barefoot, proper dress and respect

As a barefooter, I often find people look at me funny. Sometimes they are worried about cold, possibly injuries, etc. Other essays address those issues. This is about the times people say 'you shouldn't be barefoot here, it is not proper!'

What is 'proper dress'? Are 'shoes' always proper, and are bare feet some kind of sign of disrespect? In many cases where 'proper dress' is required, a pair of dirty old sneakers will do, and a pair of freshly washed, nicely groomed bare feet will not. Makes sense, eh?

Are feet, then, private parts? I don't think they are, any more than hands are. They are covered out of habit, not because they are ugly or gross. Sure, some people have a foot fetish but others have fetishes about hair, or other body parts not normally associated with sex. I also strongly believe this is linked to the fact that most people cover their feet up. Any body part that is not a 'private part' becomes more interesting when it is not seen much, and loses much of its appeal when it becomes common. People used to think knees and ankles were shocking to reveal.

Bare feet can be a sign of 'I don't care enough about this place to even bother to put on shoes', but dirty sneakers, an old sweater, or many other things can say the same thing, and usually will be allowed in situations where bare feet are not. Bare feet, in most habitual barefooters, are simply a sign that they like to be comfortable and have nothing to do with disrespect.

On the contrary, to some of us, bare feet are very respectful. When I am barefoot, I touch the Earth gently. I know what I am walking on, where I am walking, and I do so in a very non-intrusive, non-damaging way. When walking on a soft trail in nature, I barely leave footprints while a person wearing hiking boots churns up the trail beneath his feet. I step on a small plant and I am aware of it, stepping off lightly and quickly doing little damage. A person wearing hiking boots will likely not even notice he crushed it. On a paved street or on the floor in a building this may make little or no visible difference in wear and tear, but the idea is the same. When I wear shoes, I feel like I am stomping around in a careless, damaging way that is extremely disrespectful to our Earth. I feel strongly that if more people were to go barefoot, we would have less litter laying around. Not because the risk of injury is that great (see also the other essays on the dangers of going barefoot) but because when you go barefoot you are more aware of the ground and all that is on it.

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More barefoot links:
Index | Why NSNSNS signs are wrong | No bare feet by order of... | The dangers of bare feet are greatly exaggerated | Confrontations in stores, why it matters | Bare feet and colds | Driving barefoot and safety | Flying barefoot, comfort and safety | Bare feet, proper dress and respect | Dress codes in schools and elsewhere

Other links:
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