By Lesedi Khabele-Stevens
Nothing screams “liberal arts college” quite as loudly as students walking around campus without shoes. At the beginning of the Fall semester two years ago, it seemed as though many more students were walking around shoeless. The year before, I would see the occasional pair of barefeet. The feet I did see were not present in any of my classes so I tended to ignore them. The following year, they did start to show up in my classes.
I can’t claim that I know every individual’s reasons for ditching shoes, but given the fact that it went from a couple of people doing it to a more noticeable amount, it seems unlikely that people do it for health reasons. Much to the same tune of socks paired with Birkenstocks and Tevas, going shoeless feeds into the stereotype of the liberal arts college student who doesn’t shower or is a wealthy hipster. Going without shoes has become part of the Lewis & Clark dress code. Going shoeless communicates that one is all about comfort and not so much worried about fashion or appearance. On the flip side, not wearing shoes is arguably a choice of fashion. This choice, quite frankly, is disgusting.
It was only a couple of weeks into that first semester of sophomore year that I watched in horror as a pair of naked feet walked into the Bon while I was eating my dinner. Other people’s feet particles and my food do not be in such explicit contact. It’s rude. If anyone has ever brought this up to me, they know it is a rather large source of stress. I am very much against people going shoeless in places that are to be shared with others, e.g. the Bon and classrooms. Feet quite frankly are not pleasant to look at, and I definitely don’t want to see other people’s feet if I don’t have to. There is nothing I dread more than sitting in a class where I can see the bottoms of people’s dirty feet. It ends up becoming a distraction.
I can also say with much certainty that there were direct correlations between the hand-foot-mouth outbreak a couple of years ago and the rise in students leaving their shoes at home. Think about it. Hand-foot-mouth can be transmitted through contaminated objects and what better way to track dirt and contaminate spaces than barefeet?