Many of you are probably too young to remember Jerry Rubin. He was one of the founders of the Youth International Party (the “Yippies”) to protest the Vietnam War.
He’s also probably at least partly one of the instigators of the proliferation of “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs.
I say that only because, as I wrote in “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”: It’s Really Fairly Recent, those signs were put up by shopkeepers to keep out hippies. While Jerry Rubin was a “yippie”, not a “hippie”, he sure did go barefoot a lot (shirtless, too).
I think the main difference between a “yippie” and a “hippie” was the level of political activism. Hippies were a bit more mellow (and stoned), while yippies were quite active trying to change things. Jerry was one of the “Chicago 7”, charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot when the Democratic Convention in Chicago was disrupted. The actions of the police were later considered a “police riot”. One of the more notable phrases to come out of that was Mayor Richard J. Daley’s verbal gaffe saying:
Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all — the policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.
Jerry was acquitted (either at trial or on appeal), though some contempt of court charges (for his protests during the trial) stuck.
After the Chicago Riots, Jerry was subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee (yes, that still existed). He showed up barefoot and shirtless, carrying a toy machine gun and with a bandolier across his chest. Here he is in the committee room (October 1, 1968):
And here he is coming down the steps at the Democratic Convention in August of that year, where you can see his full “regalia”:
Capitol police barred Jerry from entering the Capitol Building. Can you guess why?
I know what you’re thinking, but no, it wasn’t because of the bare feet. It was because his bandolier had real bullets in it. As soon as he removed the bullets and left them behind, it was OK for him to enter, barefooted and shirtless. (Police also confiscated a black bull whip from Abbie Hoffman.)
I think this also illustrates how it really is that the NSNSNS signs are a reaction to these times. At that time, nobody made up excuses about how he would have to wear shoes for safety—that excuse is really recent as people with short memories make up post hoc rationalizations for why such signs exist.
Actually, I’ve been barefoot in the U.S. Capitol too. The guards stopped me (and a few friends), but eventually conceded that there was no rule against it.
The U.S. Capitol: good enough for bare feet.