Did you know that until fairly recently in historical times, the Scottish, particularly the women and children, regularly went barefoot? (And by historical times, I mean about 150 years ago or so.) It was simply part of the culture.
Anyways, here is an interesting description of that.
This is from the “Temple Bar” magazine of London, in 1866. The writer, a George Augustus Sala, is writing a description of his visit to Glasgow. Earlier on in the piece he makes fun of the idea that the Scots run around in kilts and the like. Of course, it was only Highlanders who ever really did so. But during the mid-1800s various literary works had convinced Londoners that going to Scotland would present them regularly with the sight.
In reality, throughout most of Scotland, it really didn’t look much different than the rest of the industrialized world (and if fact, Sala talks about this homogenization, which is only even more so these days). Sala was bemoaning how all these locations were getting to be so much the same. And then, a companion made an observation. Here’s Sala’s description, starting with the quote from his companion.
“Good gracious me! I’ve been two hours looking out at this window, and I never saw so many people with bare feet in the whole course of my life!”
I tried half an hour at the window, and I was certainly amazed at the number of persons, mostly young women and children, who crossed George Square, destitute of either shoes or stockings. The most curious part of the thing was this, that whereas in England and on the Continent bare feet are ordinarily looked upon as an unmistakable sign of extreme poverty, if not of actual destitution, the majority of the barefooted lassies we saw were otherwise decently and comfortably clad. Petticoats of warm stuff, shawls of bright hues worth not less than a pound or five-and-twenty shillings apiece, little nattinesses in the shape of cuffs and collars, well-parted hair, and even earrings and brooches were not uncommon; but there were the bare legs and feet, not by scores but by hundreds, as though all the naughty girls and some of the naughty boys in Glasgow were in training to go through a course of penitential perambulations over red-hot ploughshares. I was told afterwards that throughout Scotland it was the practice to send children, though even of decent parents, to school without shoes or stockings; but that in Glasgow especially the young women and girls working in the factories and dyeing and printing works habitually went barefooted on work-days, but that on the Sabbath they came out in well-gartered hosen and well-laced-up Balmoral boots–ay, and with varnished tips and military heels too. I could not, however, help being struck with the plenitude of the va-nu-pieds element in a city where at every step you meet with signs and tokens of colossal wealth. It is the first, and indeed the most salient Scottish characteristic which strikes a stranger fresh from London, where the rabble of the gutters wear indeed the raggedest of boots and the holiest of stockings, but are very rarely indeed barefooted. I happened, that week, to be writing a letter full of “Echoes” to a newspaper in London, and I touched incidentally on the fact of the female population of Glasgow being much addicted to going about without shoes or stockings. Will you believe that the editor of some Glasgow newspaper was, the next week, malignant or asinine enough to give insertion to a letter in which some spiteful Tomnoddy made a violent attack upon me, as having libelled Glasgow and ungratefully requited the hospitality I had received there—the old selfish, conceited, baseless, senseless taunt—by alluding to the barefootedness of the Glasgow lassies?—a fact which is as clear as the sun at noonday, and which to ignore would make of a traveller a blind leader of the blind. As well might I be censured for saying that there are prickly-pears in Mexico, grasshoppers in Algeria, mosquitoes in Cuba, or spittoons in the United States. I have been censured for saying about as much as this; and this is the kind of thing which every honest traveller must expect.