The Internet Keeps Debating This Polarizing House Rule — But It’s Actually Quite Simple

published Jul 2, 2024
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three pairs of shoes stand in front of the front door
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A recent New York Times story detailing the new rules of hosting a party is dividing hosts, guests, and basically the entire internet. The “Everything Guide to Partying” has the internet taking sides over one rule in particular — and it’s re-sparking a debate about shoes-off policies in homes.

One of the contributors to the list said it was a faux pas — and even rude — to ask guests to take their shoes off before they go into your home. The hot take revitalized the long-running question of whether it’s “rude” to ask people to take off their footwear before coming into your home, and about basic respect for other people’s spaces.

Wherever you fall in the debate in your own space, it’s important to remember that when you’re a guest in someone else’s home, you have to play by their rules. Apartment Therapy’s own Stephanie Nguyen previously wrote that when someone asks you to abide by the rules of their home, you should. It’s a sign of respect (and an acknowledgement that people get to run their homes how they want). Nguyen, who grew up in the “shoes-off inside” culture of Hawai’i, says different cultures also have different norms — and reasons — for not wearing shoes inside of the house. 

“Taking your shoes off is a common practice throughout Asian and Middle Eastern countries — and oftentimes it started for hygienic purposes. Many people sleep on mats or eat at a table on the floor, so it makes sense to leave footwear at the door. For many places around the world, it’s a standard practice and way of life … when I’m about to enter a home, I immediately take my shoes off to show that I care for their place by leaving my dirty footwear behind.”

Besides it being just plain good manners, shoes can be, well, nasty. One expert told CNN in 2023 that shoes “can track in all sorts of bacteria … [like] E. coli, that cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. There have been studies that swab the bottom of shoes and something like 99% of the shoes test positive for fecal material.”

Tracking that through your own home, let alone someone else’s space, is definitely not model guest behavior (at a house party or otherwise). 

Whatever you decide to do at your own home, you can plan ahead by bringing a pair of socks or invest in some house slippers you can easily throw in your bag. Remember: Respecting someone else’s cultural or hygienic preferences in their home costs you nothing.