To wear, or Not to wear Slippers: Slipper Etiquette 101:

Admit it… the first thing most of us do when we get home is to kick off our outdoor shoes as soon as you get inside, and slip on the nearest, pair of sandals or slippers. But what happens when you have guests over—Are they expected to take their shoes off before coming inside your living space? How do you get your guests to change out of their shoes and wear slippers to protect your nice, clean floor… Without offending them?

First of all, it has to be said that it’s perfectly understandable if you prefer to have your guests change into indoor appropriate footwear as they come inside your home. Reasons for this are obvious: nobody wants the dirt from the street carried into the living room or heel-marks on the expensive parquet floor. In fact, in some cultures, it is the custom and a sign of respect to take off your shoes before entering your host’s home. This practice is found in some Eastern cultures like Japan, as well as several Arab and African cultures. In the West, things are a little different—it’s common to find people walking with the same outdoor sandals right into the house, and even through to the bedrooms.

The weather plays a huge part in prompting change of foot-wear when we get home. On those rainy or wintry days, every home makes provision for guests to remove their boots and shoes, so as not to transfer the wetness and dirt from outside. Indoor heating also necessitates that we protect our feet from overheating or over-cooling when directly exposed.

Other times it's actually complaints (or the fear of complaints) from our neighbours that pushes us to request our guests to change into house slippers. This is especially true if you live in units that are close together like apartments—you intuitively become sensitive to the noises around you from neighbours; clickety-clack of heels or heavy thudding steps are likely to invite frosty greetings, cold glares or outright complaints lodged against you. To avoid all this, it’s just easier to slip into some good ‘quiet’ house slippers and sandals, and keep the peace.

Simple Tips to avoid embarrassing moments

Having a personal preference that outdoor shoes be left outside is one thing; politely communicating it to your guests, however, is the difficult part. How do you tell them in a way that will not embarrass them? What if someone has smelly feet? Or they’re hiding ugly toes? Or had a wardrobe malfunction and wore ‘holy’ socks on the very day they were visiting you? It really won’t go down well if you insist that shoes be taken off, especially without some sort of prior notice. Here are some tips that can help you avoid embarrassing moments, either for you or for your guests.

  1. If you’re inviting guests over for a meal or for a sleep-over, it’s possible to drop a hint with your invitation, especially if you’re doing it via social media. A light-hearted P.S (perhaps accompanied by a nice pictorial or cartoon) works wonders in putting the message across and tactfully preparing your guests ahead of their visit. Saying something like “P.S—Remember to send me your shoes-size.we will be serving house-slippers on arrival.” drops a hint of what to expect.
  2. Another great way to get your guests to leave their shoes at the door is to lead by example. This works if you are receiving them from outside and walking into the house with them, or if your guests are arriving together with you. Simply lead the way by removing your own shoes as you enter your house, and inevitably, they will copy you. For those who forget this or do not have slippers, you should have extra ready-to-wear slippers for guests. This is also recommended if you have strongly textured floor coverings such as sisal carpets in your house, which is often perceived as unpleasant by sock-bearers or barefoot walkers.

Guest slippers as a gift for guests

So it’s actually quite easy to avoid this social dilemma. All you have to do is keep a stock of appropriate guest slippers in various sizes. In addition, you can score extra ‘friendship points’ if you gift the slippers to the guests permanently—they will surely love you for this gesture and will want to visit you again and again!

This also contributes to good hygiene and sustainability. In the case of frequent guests, you could add a personal touch by labelling the slippers for your guests. True to the motto: You are always a welcome guest, so leave your slippers right here.

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