Monday, May 30, 2011

Climbing Again

Barefooting is easy
Barefooting is good for you
Barefooting is NOT illegal
Join the revolution

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  1. No Shirt, No Shoes No service - early 1970s, long haired young men like your age were wandering around the streets wearing bellbottom jeans with no shirts and shoes. It was common enough on nice summer days that many store owners started putting up those signs. And by the way, during the mid 1960s that hair you have would have been considered way too long, that is, a Beatle hairstyle, and most elementary schools and high schools would have sent you home to get a haircut. You could even get kicked out of a mall for having hair that was considered too long for the time. By 1971 and 1972, the length you have now was just normal. What was radical and shocking in one decade becomes ordinary and mainstream in another....they probably do not mention this suff in the history books.....

  2. Well with a general disregard for my appearance I get a haircut twice a year, First week of june and start of school. I am getting a haircut probably tomorrow because I am a WWII German re enactor so I need to cut it back to 1940s regulation length.

    Anyway, I've only seen that explanation for NSNSNS from one person before...Mr. Howell?

  3. I am a cultural historian who occasionally teaches courses both on the 1950s and the 1960s, so perhaps my knowledge and perspective would be useful here in light of the first comment. I am also old enough to have first-hand knowledge of the periods in question. I can assure you that these things are of great interest to historians and do, indeed, make it into the history books.

    As for banning people from establishments on the basis of their appearance, it varied depending on the time period and location. Then, as now, some parts of the country were more uptight and restrictive, depending on many factors. To follow up on the whole hair-length thing: in some places long hair was considered an issue, and in other places not so much. It is never good to generalize, of course, but generally speaking (hehe), then, as now, more urban, better educated, more diverse, and more tolerant parts of the country had fewer issues with things like hair length, dress, etc.

    Interestingly, bare feet were not such a big deal in the 1950s (and before). As late as the 1930s it would not have been uncommon to see barefoot adults and (especially) children in the poorer and hotter parts of the country. They were certainly not banned from stores. Their money, if they had any, was as good as anyone else's.

    I remember adults, teenagers, and children in my own middle class family in the 1960s being barefoot in stores. If, for example, you were having a picnic or barbecue and you suddenly realized you needed something from the store, you walked or drove there and picked it up. In the event that you were barefoot, it didn't really matter, not to you or anyone else. No one, to my recollection, ever stopped to change their attire before such a trip. No one ever mentioned it or seemed to think anything of it. This sort of thing probably expanded exponentially if you lived in a beach, lake, or touristy part of the country, or (again) if you were in a more rural and hot area. Then, as now, there were no government bans on bare feet, and stores didn't seem to care: there were no threatening or ominous signs hanging on doors.

    This all changed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Suddenly the signs went up. Suddenly it became an issue. Why?

    In short, the "no shirt, no shoes, no service" mantra became a way of keeping "undesirable" elements out of your store. Bare feet were no longer associated with childhood, poverty, beach living, or backyard picnics; now they were associated with hippies! The mainstream media actually demonized the counterculture, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, to an extent greater than most people know, portraying hippies as dirty, drug-crazed, and dangerous (this stereotype still lives in many parts of the country). They were seen as people unlikely to buy anything in a store (and likely to steal), in addition to being a presence that might offend or drive away more affluent shoppers.

    The banning of bare feet had (and has) absolutely nothing to do with health or safety and everything to do with discrimination against a class of people who were seen as unlikely to bring economic benefits to a business and who were seen as outside of the mainstream and therefore a threat--the fear factor that drives so much of what we do as individual Americans and as a nation. (Did you ever wonder why the wearing of a shirt purportedly adds to your health of safety in a store--it makes no sense whatsoever). Businesses that today ban barefoot customers (or shirtless ones) do so entirely because of economic/cultural reasons (or, of course, for mythical reasons--belief in the non-existent health or safety regulations).

    Sadly, most people stand by meekly while their rights and freedoms are curtailed by corporate America and never question a thing and never ask why or stop to consider that it was not always thus.

  4. You are absolutely right on all points Mr. Cultural Historian. (I am the first poster from above). My observations as a kid in the 1960s are similar, and yes, there certainly were regional differences and time period differences. Cultural and social change in the 1960s was happening so fast, that it was hard to keep up. The Generation Gap was wide as can be, and was one of the most overused phrases of the last few years of the 1960s. (Does any young person today even know what that means?) My parents, born in 1920, grew up on farms and spent entire summers barefoot. Could not wait for the weather to get warm so they could do this. Though their assumption was, that once you were and adult, you got dressed up to go anywhere past your yard or neighbor's yard. We lived a few miles from New York City during the 1960s and 1970s, and they and most, if not all, of their age friends wore button down shirts, dress shoes, and dress pants when going anywhere past their own yards. Jeans and T-shirts were considered farmers work clothes, or clothes kids played in. My mother almost always wore a skirt or dress when going out, as she did in the 1940s and 1950s. They did not keep up with the new fashion of they day, they though it was too sloppy to dress the way young people did in the 1960s and 1970s. And long hair for men? They and most of their same age friends were appalled by it at first. All men were supposed to cut their hair to the hairline and comb it away from their face. But boys and young men wanted to look like their favorite rocks stars, such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and tried to get away with not getting a haircut for as long as possible. Often just when it started to grow over the ears and started looking cool, our parents would demand we get haircuts. So did the teachers. Those hair rules were eliminated by the fall of 1969 or 1970 in most public schools, a year or 2 later in most private schools, though that varied regionally as well. But constant fights with parents often continued, as they had their own rules that did not include a more lenient approach to hair length. This was especially bad if you had World War II generation parents. And as for going barefoot, there were kids, teenagers, and young adults barefoot everywhere when I was growing up. Summer was not associated with flip flops and sandals, but with bare feet. Even when we went to NY city in the summer, or took a train to the beach at Coney Island, I would see at least some young people barefoot. And George Santayana was right, "those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it".
    So it is up to the young people of today to rebel, to force stupid social rules against bare feet in public out of our culture. (Most other dumb rules like that were purged out of our society by the early 1970s.) And part of this must include a knowledge of history and how we got there. Very, very few know of the recent past with regards to this. Tell store owners who want to kick you out not just that it is perfectly legal to be barefoot in there, but that people used to do that all the time. That it was an ordinary summertime experience not that long ago, and we all took it for granted.


  6. I have always loved to go barefoot. Why not? It is fun to wiggle your toes in the sand. To feel the green grass cushion the soles of your feet. Barefootedness gives one the sense of freedom, of childhood dreams relived. However; for those in the resturant industry like my hubby, it is best to wear shoes so as to not hurt yourself when a heavy tray is inadvertedly dropped on one's foot lol. All in all, each person has their preference. I for one always like the freedom of being barefoot or if having to wear shoes, wearing sandels. A blessed day to you!