When I went to grad school in the hallowed halls of UNO, there was this kid on campus who refused to wear shoes.

* make us famous


I hoped he was a business major, but alas, I’d see him in the Liberal Arts building almost every day- his baggy jeans brushing the tops of his gnarled, dirty feet. He made appearances in the cafeteria, eating Subway as though he had just pulled off his shoes and socks at home. I even saw him shoelessly riding the Jackson-Esplanade bus.

Shoeless Guy was an iconoclast; one of the few beacons of originality crossing our muddy and weirdly treeless quad. Opinions of Shoeless Guy were divided. Was it gross, or liberating? Did his feet hurt? How did this compare to that one episode of Seinfeld, when Elaine hates another woman for not wearing a bra?

Before sociologists veered toward extinction with the rest of the liberal arts, they observed that shoes can indicate class or societal position. Italian leather monkstraps equal investment banker or affluent metrosexual. Louboutins equal celebrity or rich person. (I’ve still never seen anyone wearing Louboutins outside of a TV screen.) Hollister flip-flops equal college kid, or high school kid trying to look like college kid. Shoes, along with other visual cues, allow us to quickly slot a person into a given category, a schema. It was startling to see Shoeless Guy because he provided me with nothing at all. It was like seeing a person without a face. 

I came to the conclusion that Shoeless Guy must be making a political statement. Without the tyranny of footwear, he couldn’t be easily categorized beyond being eccentric or possibly poor. Like that one friend who just won’t wear deodorant, he was free of societal strictures. Perhaps we should all discard the shackles of footwear, and share our vulnerable toes. We’d hold feet instead of hands, go on group outings for tetanus shots.

I wonder what happened to Shoeless Guy. In any case, I wouldn’t have slept with him.