I’ve been going nearly-continuously barefoot for about 17 years now. Yet, I have to admit that, when I see another barefoot person in a non-beach environment, it still looks weird to me.
It’s all about the odd way the brain works and what its expectations are. It’s that what we see every day is “normal” and there is something about the rest that just doesn’t look quite right.
This is something that fashion deals with all the time. What’s fashionable right now often isn’t fashionable 20 years down the line. But it certainly isn’t rational; it’s just what gets popular suddenly looks “right”.
One example is Tom Selleck in the TV show Magnum PI from the early- to mid-eighties.
Those shorts looked just fine back then, because we were used to them. But the fashion these days are shorts below the knees. The fact that I wear shorter shorts (a ways above the knee) tags me as an “old man”. (I have noticed, though, that shorts for men are starting to get a bit shorter again.)
Another good example is speedos. Men in Europe wear speedos and they look just fine. Translate that across the Atlantic and people seem to think it’s something that they can make fun of. Again, it’s all about what we are used to seeing and one’s expectations. Here, the expectation is board shorts.
In fact, with speedos it’s acceptable to make all sorts of nasty comments that would be downright sexist if applied to women. For instance, from 15 Dumb Dude Fashions – The Speedo, we get this:
The speedo is like the polar opposite of the thong. Everyone wants to see a thong on the right female body. But nobody wants to see a speedo on any dude, ever. There is no way to pull this off. It looks like a slingshot full of walnuts. It’s gross.
And a lot of women say the same thing—until they see a hunk in one, and then it’s OK, but only then.
How’d they feel if they were constantly criticized for wearing bikinis unless they had the perfect body.
Take a look at this picture.
Guess which one gets criticized? That picture is from the blog One Sister’s Rant. Of course, the guilty person is the man for pulling up his shorts a bit to look slightly speedo-ish. But you don’t see any criticism of the woman. If an older man wore that, you’d get the “slingshot of walnuts” comment.
OK, “One Sister” is writing snark; it’s deliberately exaggerated. But she does a good job of portraying the attitudes: Is that a banana hammock I spy?.
Well, I believe no one should come near the dreaded Speedo.
Nevertheless, men of all ages, sizes, and shapes feel it’s their God-given right to subject the rest of the population to “feast” their eyes on their goodies.
* * *
As I lay my towel down, a newcomer made his way to the beach. He was wearing the finest pair of board shorts I have ever seen. Thankfully, it shed light on the fact that not all men have the desire to parade in public wearing Spandex underpants.
First, it’s just what she’s used to. Second, there is the cultural assumption that men are supposed to simply hide such “bananas” from view by wearing baggy (and truth be told, uncomfortable) clothing. Just like women are supposed to hide their “melons” under extremely loose-fitting sweatshirts. Oh, wait. They don’t have to. And they don’t get criticized for wearing titslings.
It’s silly that people mistake what-they-are-used-to for the-way-the-world-is.
Back to Europe, here’s a picture of Giorgio Armani from a few years back (on a European beach).
The American reaction? Ugh. After all, it’s a speedo, and speedos are bad (and we’re not used to seeing them). The European reaction? Hey, he looks pretty good for a man in his mid-70s.
To emphasize just how cultural it is, and how it is just what we are used to, here’s a picture of some Bushmen (!Kung).
They just look right. Because that’s what we’ve seen before. You don’t hear anybody bitching about a bag of walnuts. You don’t hear them saying that these men are parading around. You don’t hear anybody saying that the man on the left has too much belly to pull off the look. It’s just people; that’s what humans look like.
And that is true on either American or European beaches.
So, let me get back to my original point. (What, you say, you had and original point?)
Oh, yeah. When I see a barefooted person (besides at a beach), they still look weird to me. It’s because I don’t see them very often at all. (Of course, I rarely see myself when I am out and about.) So it looks odd when I do see a barefooted person. But it doesn’t mean I criticize them, just because my brain has embedded itself into a cultural expectation. Because I realize the trick my brain is playing on me, I resist that.
It’s a great picture (used with permission of Stephen Bloor). He’s got a great-looking kid.
But it still looked odd to me to see a barefooted person.
And that’s because my brain is trying to betray me. It’s trying to tell me that what I don’t see every day is odd and worthy of note.
But it’s not.
Heck, even the hat didn’t bother my brain—you’re more likely to see hats like that than people out on the street in bare feet.
That highlights the idea that we are ambassadors for barefoot living, and why it’s a good idea to strive to go places barefooted where we can be seen, including many place that might try to keep us out.
The more people see us out there, the less we look odd. We are gradually infiltrating their minds. And the more “normal” we can look, through familiarity, the fewer battles we’ll have to end up fighting.