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It’s the second week of January. The COVID-testing line is around the block, Betty White is dead, and there’s not much we can do about everything being pretty awful. But here, in my apartment, I have managed to wrest a modicum of control over the chaos of daily life. Because here, I wear house shoes.
A house shoe, for the uninitiated, is a shoe you wear only (I repeat: ONLY) inside the house. A quick dog walk is not a house-shoe situation, nor is running downstairs to open the door for takeout. The bottom of a house shoe must never make contact with the ground outside of your own abode. Some people might have a more loosey-goosey interpretation of the term, but I don’t, and I’ll get to why in a minute.
I first became a house-shoe devotee during the very specific relationship milestone of booking a monthlong Airbnb with my significant other. Cohabitating for the first time as a couple is famously rocky territory, and this was no truer than for us. I am messy; he is not. So when we sat down to discuss how we would meet in the middle, the first thing he said was, “I need you to get house shoes.”
It seemed perverse to me. Home is where you go to take off your shoes, to let your feet run free, to prop them on your coffee table next to a glass of wine while you watch The Bachelor. Going shoeless is a key part of being comfortable and at ease. Why would I want to put on a shoe in my own home?
Here’s why: When you walk around barefoot, your feet pick up stuff from your floor. Our floors are pretty gross if you think about it. There’s dirt and particles from the ground outside coming in. It’s worse with hard floors, but even carpets have a habit of transferring some of their contents onto your foot. No-shoe policies, while great, don’t quite solve this problem, because you still have spills and crumbs coming from inside the apartment. There’s dust, too, which comes from nowhere at all. What’s that about? Anyway, no matter who you are, your floor is disgusting, and you are raw-dogging it with your feet. And then where do you put those feet? On your couch to take a little nap? On the aforementioned coffee table? In your bed?
Now, my trusty house shoes stand between me and all that objectionable filth. My own set is a humble pair of Nike slides, since anything toastier tends to make my feet feel like they’re wrapped in a fiery blanket of fluff. (Plus, when I forget to change out of them to bring the trash downstairs, which happens not infrequently, I can wash the soles in a snap.) But some people like to zhuzh up their house shoes, which I respect. You can even have seasonal ones if you want to keep your feet warm in the winter but cool in the summer. The world is your oyster, so long as you don’t wear your house shoes out into it.
However much you want to spend on them, purchasing a pair of shoes to wear solely in your own home is an investment in your comfort and cleanliness. For a while, wearing shoes while at my most slovenly felt uncomfortable, unnatural even. But now, I can’t relax without them. They don’t just keep my soles clean. They are like tiny security blankets for my feet, reminding me that my apartment is not a listless extension of my bed but a space of its own, where I can work and cook and lounge and generally live a fruitful life. In fact, I can’t think of a better time to start treating the indoors like we treat the outdoors, a place with its own designated clothes and footwear.
There are times when the weather is nice and health experts aren’t panicking, and that’s when we put on our finest strappy sandals and go to bars and restaurants and parties. And then there’s now. Now, we wear house shoes. You have enough to worry about. Why bring a dustpan’s worth of dirt into your bed?