A week ago Wendy, Elli and I went on a walk through some local parks. We took the bus to get there, wandered about for awhile and then hopped on the bus to come home. The bus driver took one look at my bare feet and told me I had to put on shoes to get on the bus. I found this a bit bizarre since the posted rules for the TTC (Toronto public transit) make no mention of shoes being required and I have been on all kinds of different public transit vehicles with no shoes on including subway, streetcars, buses, even ferries. Thankfully the bus driver eventually concluded that ordering me off the bus when I was pushing my daughter's stroller probably wouldn't go over well and he elected to drop the subject. I went online later and discovered that bare feet actually are against the TTC regulations but that the only way to find this out is to look online for that specifically, and there is of course no reason given for that regulation.
This past weekend Elli and Wendy went to Ikea with the idea that Elli would play in their babysitting area with all kinds of fun equipment, but Elli was prevented from doing so because she didn't have socks. Her Crocs weren't acceptable and neither were bare feet, only sock feet would do. This incident is really ridiculous because the usual reasons given for banning bare feet are health and safety related and I cannot imagine how anyone could suggest that socks are somehow safer than bare feet. In this case it simply must be a propriety thing; apparently it is important that the Ikea children's play area maintain a high class image.
It used to be normal for many people to go without shoes because shoes were expensive and as such they were a marker of wealth and success. The standards have shifted from just wearing shoes to wearing very expensive shoes but the essential value of spending on clothing to impress has not changed. The trouble comes in when people start to assume that everyone must want to wear shoes and thus anyone who does not is either desperately poor to the point of being homeless or crazy. It is understandable that people might want to keep certain types of people out of their stores but unfortunately their benchmarks for undesirables exclude people who are in all ways desirable customers.
I think I am a bit unusual in that I really have no issue with showing off the human body. I would be entirely comfortable with full nudity in public, particularly since the only reason for the government to regulate nudity is outdated religious sexual repression. It is my belief (entirely unsupported by research, but it does seem reasonable) that most of our current rules and norms about clothing and uncovered bodies stem from Christianity's historic demonization of sex and sexual organs or changes in standards of wealth as I outlined above. We as a society are far beyond the point where having enough money to be covered up is trivial and hopefully are leaving the days of 'Sex is evil, don't talk about it' behind. Unfortunately those changes have not yet caught up with our social norms and laws and we still have all these terrible ideas suggesting that someone's morality can be determined by how much of their skin is visible.