Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Origin of "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" Policies

We've all seen them, whether we're barefooters or not. As you walk into your local grocery store, restaurant or other business, it's right there on a sign near the door: "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." Many businesses continue to use this policy to keep out those who they feel would be a detriment to their operations. But where did this policy start? Why doesn't it say, "No pants?" And what about the claims that such policies are "by order of the Health Department?" Well, I have some answers.

Follow me, if you will, back a few decades to the oceanfront. Areas like Atlantic City were bustling with people. It's a mix of surfer dudes, beach bunnies, energetic kiddos and tourists. Inside one of the many shops along the boardwalk, a married couple on vacation from the midwest is looking for souvenirs to take home. Shortly after, a surfer dude walks in wearing only his swimming trunks. His wet feet have dragged sand into the shop, spreading it across the floor as he goes to one corner to pick up a tube of lip balm. He glances at the couple and nods, saying, "Hey." The tourists, uncomfortable with this guy, decide that maybe they want to take their business somewhere else.

Businesses obviously don't like it when something -- or someone -- takes business away. For many small business owners, too many instances like this would cause a hardship. Eventually they might have to even close up shop forever.

To prevent such a terrible fate from occurring, these same beachfront shop owners posted "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" (NS3) policies. They worked well, addressing any dude, bunny or kiddo who dared enter with sandy feet and/or an exposed belly. If surfer dude wanted lip balm, he'd have to put on a shirt and sandals to look a little more "decent" and keep from dragging a bunch of sand in.

That's also why the signs never say "No Pants." Shop owners apparently saw swim trunks as being okay. Throwing on a shirt apparently would cover enough of a swimsuit-wearing woman to be acceptable without making them wear shorts or pants. Because the NS3 signs still make no mention of pants, it makes me wonder if current policies are just old ways of thinking being carried over without critical analysis.

So that's where these policies began.

At some point they geographically spread far away from the coasts and can be now found in nearly every locale. Sometimes they now only say "Shoes Required" or "No Bare Feet," but the message remains the same: Your bare feet are bad for business. Business owners today, especially those not on the coasts, often don't understand where NS3 policies began and have adapted their reasoning. Instead of keeping sand off of the floors and keeping tourists in their shops, management now claims it's a safety issue. I've addressed safety a number of times on this blog, so all I'll say is that most businesses are very safe to go into barefooted. This argument holds no water...or sand.

Something that popped up along the way was the addition of statements like, "by Order of the Health Department." I don't know if there used to be actual health codes prohibiting bare feet in businesses, however there aren't any now. The good people at the Society for Barefoot Living have done a lot of research on this issue and have discovered that no state in the U.S.A. has any regulations prohibiting bare feet in business establishments. Likewise, I have not heard of any local health departments throughout the country that have such regulations.

As far as I'm concerned, current NS3 policies are outdated and not well thought out. While I completely understand that any business has the right to implement such policies because they want to, I don't think that it is right to do so. I, as a barefooter, am not going to do anything with my feet that people don't do with their shoes. In fact, I personally recommend against putting bare feet or shoes up on chairs, tables or other areas where feet aren't normally supposed to go.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about the origin of NS3 policies. Keep an eye out around your area and see how many businesses still have posted policies that prohibit bare feet and bellies but are cool if you don't wear pants. If you really think about it, it's all very silly. I think it's high time that we responsible barefooters are allowed to bare our soles when we are out and about. We'll wear pants or shorts as a compromise, 'kay?

Photos: Barefoot couple courtesy of barefooters.org, NS3 sign taken at by me at a local McDonald's restaurant. It bears the words "No Bare Feet by Order of the Department of Health."

18 comments:

  1. I agree/approve/relentlessly endorse, support, and pledge allegiance to every idea expressed here. It feels great to shop barefoot and public opinion needs to be tolerant.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, if any "surfer dude" (as you call them) came into my store barefooted and shirtless, and looks anything like the guy in the sample photo you've used, he'd not only be welcomed but I'd be making sure he got a discount of some sort!

    Now seriously, I think this is great information on the origins of the anti-barefooting rules in North America. Others also claim that this law has to do with the surging of the beatnik and hippie cultures in the 50's and 60's.

    In the end, it goes to show conservative areas of society always try to muffle forward and different thinking and behavior.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Business need customers in order to stay in business. Customers want to feel safe and secure.
      Selfish people always want what they want at the expense of others. Playing by the rules is not in their game plan. NS3 is good for business.

      Delete
  3. I think it totally SUCKS that the 'voicetrous minority' control so much of this countries valued freedoms.

    I will continue to vehemently oppose all laws and ordinances that prohibit me from acting and behaving within the limits of my civil rights until 'they' 'lock me up and throw away the key'!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree and disagree with this article. I believe each person can decide if they want to be bsre foot or shod. But when a person's feet are dirty especially with very long toe nails and you can see the dirt under them, they should at least have socks on.

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    Replies
    1. You have the right to think that although it is discrimination to kick someone out for being "ugly" or looking a certain way.

      Delete
  5. Some people like to wear their Surfer Shirt as much as possible to ensure that they get the most exposure and the break-in to that soft, comfortable, old tee shirt feel. If they want to wear it without making any obscenity than it's all good to go.
    Surfer Shirt

    ReplyDelete
  6. The issue is that people who don't go around barefoot look at somebody who is and find it very offputting. Whether the barefoot person realizes it or not, the majority of people wear shoes and find walking around barefoot in public/stores/restaurants as unsanitary, so that's what the issue is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just had a costumer get offened I told them they needed shoes to be in the store because company wide policy is that shoes are required.So I looked it up. While many places I agree barefoot all the way is wonderful but your nasty feet don't need ti be within 2 inches of the food we sale.

      Delete
  7. I'm interested to learn their are no actual laws regarding NS3, and my somewhat tall sister will be thrilled to learn she IS allowed to drive barefoot. But when I was getting bids for some yardwork (because I am ill) I found it offensive that some man I'd never met thought it was OK to show up shirtless, and when my daughter took karate lessons (barefoot) as a child she was constantly picking up fungal infections on her soles from other people. Running around in public shirtless and shoeless just seems too casual, although if Jensen Ackles wants to knock on my door some day, the less he's wearing, the better.

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you want to dress whatever way you want--that's cool, but businesses are private property so they can make rules about what they allow. They can't discriminate against one group of people based on the people themselves, but businesses have all kinds of extra rules that don't apply to other public places.

    Some restaurants have dress codes that go way beyond no shoes. Many stores do not allow you to take photos in their business. And then there are night clubs that screen people at the door and if you're attractive and scantily clad you might have as better chance of getting in.

    Honestly going barefoot in places such as the subway seems both nasty and dangerous, but if coating your feet in muck, feces, urine and mold, and having them stepped on goats your boat, then knock yourself out.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm pretty sure this issue goes back a little farther than you think... I believe it started in the 70s when shop owners didn't want to serve "hippies" and "flower children" who most often didn't wear shoes or shirts. But I agree that it is not based on health issues.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Experiences and opinions may very regionally. First off, where I live in the North Seattle area there are a whole lot of places I can shop barefoot and no one seems to care. Grocery stores, convenience stores etc . . . Now if I ask the average person around here about shopping barefoot, they will probably have a negative opinion about it. However, they are not passionately negative about it. If you go to a store with these same people during the middle of summer and you happen to see a barefoot shopper, they don't even seem to notice. Even if I ask them directly , they are like "oh well, it is summer." Most people tend to mind their own business. As a test yesterday. I walked into a grocery store barefoot and mind you in Seattle it was maybe 50 degrees at most. People did not stare and they completely went about their business without even looking back. Most people are not the shoe police. In fact in all honestly, the anti feet people may be vocal but they are actually a minority. I started taking intense exercise classes. They started allowing people to go barefoot if they so chose. Do you know how many people choose to go barefoot? - a very large number. There are a lot of places that I go barefoot. I have become friends with a lot of people who own and operate these stores and you may be surprised to learn most just don't care. They really don't. In fact many people think it's awesome that I do my own thing and it's a talking point for them. And no other customer has ever complained. Blogs like this often give a false impression of opinions out there because for someone to take the time to post they must have a passionate opinion on the subject. Either for or against. In truth most people just don't care enough one way or the other. Here is my barefoot experience . . . In Seattle not nearly as many barefooters. When I go grocery shopping barefoot, usually I am the only one. However, when I am in Maui for a month or two, there are usually others shopping barefoot as well. Nothing odd about going barefoot in Hawaii. Seattle barefooting requires you to be different. If you are comfortable with being different, it's all good.

    ReplyDelete
  11. An unfortunate thing about the facebook page and twitter feed? They have nothing to do with going barefoot. They express the author's politics on every subject beyond the scope of the barefoot lifestyle. Couldn't the author start other social media sites for that? I will have to pass on subscribing . . . sorry.

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  12. "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" is a correct policy, and it should be observed everywhere. Americans affirm their civilized status of life by addressing and complying with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a policy but pure ignorance....don't like it? Don't look....much other worrysome things in the world to be concerned of

      Delete

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