North Carolina "Going Barefoot"

Going Barefoot By Joe Miller, by Raleigh News & Observer Staff Writer
For Matt Chvatal, it's a big perk of moving to the South. For Raleigh native Michael Todd it carries fond memories of his laid-back college days in South Carolina. And for Dr. Tracy Lutz it's a frequent reminder of the boob who taught her microbiology at Georgetown University.
It's an evocative practice that we all observe on Day One but after that, for reasons cultural and otherwise, most of us drift away from. Until the first inviting days of summer.

Going barefoot.

When our hominid forefathers first went bipedal some 4 million years ago, going barefoot was all the rage. Then, as our feet grew less furry and we began migrating to cooler climes, footwear became fashionable. (Or as fashionable as an animal pelt wrapped around your feet can be.)

Barefootedness reached its nadir during Victorian times when toe cleavage was considered risque. By the 1960s going barefoot was being used as a way to keep counterculture types out of conventional business establishments. (Though leave it to an enterprising hippie to help his brothers and sisters slyly get around the "no shirt, no shoes, no service" restriction with Barebottoms. The footwear merely consisted of a leather strap looping around the big toe and heel. From the top, they gave the appearance of a sandal; on the bottom, nothing but exposed epidermis.)

Perceptions about bare feet began changing in the 1990s when a kind of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup thing happened on the Internet. Cross migration between the alt.rec.nude and alt.rec.backcountry newsgroups sparked discussion about whether it really was illegal to drive barefoot. (No, according to a widely circulated Internet survey by the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup, though Alabama does frown on anyone riding a motorcycle without shoes.) That led to more discussion about what was and wasn't legal, as well as myths associated with the practice. Proponents say the discussion helped lower inhibitions about setting our piggies free.

No one keeps tabs on how many people go barefoot, or why. For Chvatal, Todd and Lutz, at least, their reasons vary.

No shoes, no problem

Michael Todd grew up in Raleigh, played football and baseball at Broughton High School. He went barefoot in the backyard and on family vacations at the beach and enjoyed it, but it wasn't like his mom was constantly trying to keep shoes on him. Then he went off to college.

Wearing shoes wasn't an issue early on at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. Until summer.

"Our fraternity house was in Travelers Rest," says Todd. (Travelers Rest, for those not familiar with greater Greenville, is a neighboring tourist town at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains.) "I spent several summers down there and we wore as little as possible."

Upon venturing into civilization, that required some accommodation, he says. But not much.

"We went into stores and restaurants down there without shoes," recalls the 23-year-old, "because nobody cared."

Going barefoot quickly emerged from an occasional indulgence into a lifestyle. A lifestyle that required adjustment upon graduation and his return to Raleigh. Again, though, not much.

Todd works at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Cameron Village where, as store spokesman Chuck Millsaps says, "We make him wear shoes."

But as he prepares sportswear for reshelving, a glance at his feet reveals he's wearing a high-tech descendant of those hippie Barebottoms: Vibram Five Fingers, a kind of foot glove deemed by Time magazine as one of last year's 10 best inventions. He's had them for several months now and says they accommodate every activity in his active lifestyle."

Growing up in New Orleans, I didn't even know that shoes existed for years.... With that in mind, the Tigers, love the cool, green grass of Spring. Here they are in our yard Memorial Day, barefoot with their toes in the grass.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I never wear shoes in the house, even in winter. I am also a Louisiana girl (West Monroe) and we didn't wear them outside much in the summer, either. As I've gotten older, I tend to put on shoes if I'm going to the mailbox or something (we have a gravel driveway), but don't bother with them if I'm just going to sit on the porch. I do make the kids wear shoes to ride bikes or if they want to go up in our backyard.