Shoes or No Shoes in the House for James Bond?

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Different cultures have different practises as to wearing footwear in the home. The British, like James Bond, traditionally leave their shoes on at home. On the other hand, Eastern cultures or people from snowy locations often wouldn’t think to keep shoes on in the house. For both it is a matter of respect.

James Bond removes his shoes at home in Dr. No so he can sneak around

The first time we see Bond at home in Dr. No, he removes his shoes in the front hall. He only does so because he does not want whoever has broken into his flat to hear his footsteps. Otherwise he would not have removed his shoes until he was prepared to remove the rest of his clothes.

When Bond is at home in Spectre, he removes his the jacket from his grey herringbone track-stripe suit but leaves the rest of his clothes, including his shoes. As he is expecting Moneypenny to stop in, perhaps he leaves his shoes on as a formality when greeting guests. Maybe he keeps them on because he never knows when he needs a quick getaway. It could be cold and draughty in Bond’s old home and his feet would get cold without shoes. Bond’s socks may have holes in them. Or he might want to spare Moneypenny the smell of his feet. These are all valid reasons to leave one’s shoes on in the home.

James Bond leaves his shoes on at home in Spectre

When he gets out of bed in Live and Let Die, James Bond puts on a monogrammed yellow dressing gown with matching pyjamas and monogrammed purple velvet Prince Albert slippers, despite the trendy-for-1973 but comfortable light brown shag carpeting. Even with the carpeting, Bond’s flat may be too cold to walk around barefoot, and footwear gives Bond a more proper appearance when answering the door.

James Bond wears slippers when he gets out of bed in the middle of the night in Live and Let Die. Inset photo of slippers is from a Christie’s auction listing.

In British culture, especially when dressed up, people are not generally expected to remove shoes in other’s homes. James Bond does not remove shoes when visiting people’s homes for business or for a dinner party, and doing so would be equivalent to removing shoes in a public place. Bond’s shoes stay on when he visits M’s home “Quarterdeck”, just like M’s shoes stay on when he visits Bond’s home. Imagine M’s reaction if Bond entered his study in stocking feet? M might think Bond presumptuous for making himself too comfortable in another’s home. M would likely be offended. At the very least, he would find Bond quite odd if he removed his shoes, which would be akin to getting partially undressed.

If attending a fancy dinner—especially in black tie—at someone’s home, like at Colonel Smithers’ home in Goldfinger or in Kamal Khan’s home in Octopussy, formality would demand that one is dressed in shoes. The casualness of removing shoes is at odds with hosting a formal party, where one would not even remove his jacket. The same goes for business meetings at a home, like at Tiffany Case’s flat in Diamonds Are Forever or at Drax’s château in Moonraker, when Bond is dressed in a blazer and a tie.

Bond wears shoes in the formal environment of Drax’s château in Moonraker

When Bond is invited into others’ homes, the homes are often mansions that are formally run with servants., such as Drax’s and Zorin’s châteaux. In such formal households, day-to-day living has a high level of formality where one is always properly dressed, which includes footwear. Guests are expected to leave shoes on, as removing shoes would be too relaxed and informal for such households. The floors of these houses would also be rather cold to not have any shoes on. Though shoes may make messes in the house at times, there are servants who are there to clean up.

It should be noted that Bond and other characters may often leave their shoes on at times simply because putting on and taking off shoes on camera slows down the pacing of the film. Nobody wants to watch that! Still, Bond removes his shoes in the films when it is necessary.

In many cultures around the world, and even in many households in every part of the world, people are expected to remove their shoes immediately upon entering a home. This is either to keep floors clean from dirt and microscopic germs that come from the streets, to prevent scuffs to wood floors, to prevent wear to fine carpet or rugs, or simply for comfort. In parts of the world where shoes were traditionally left on in the home, now people are removing their shoes in the home. This is especially common in informal middle-class households. For people who work in or visit visibly dirty places, taking off their shoes or boots before entering the home is just common sense.

Bond removes his shoes before entering Dikko Henderson’s home in You Only Live Twice

When James Bond visits Japan in You Only Live Twice, he follows the local custom of removing shoes before entering Dikko Henderson’s home. Henderson greets Bond in an informal Yukata, a type of Japanese robe. There is still formality here where people are expected to show each other a high level of respect, and this is a business meeting and is treated as such, but Japanese culture sees wearing shoes in another’s home as disrespectful. In Japan, the floor is not just a place for walking like it is in Western culture, but it’s also a place where people live. People may sit on the floor to eat, and they may lie on the floor to sleep. Bond understands that it is the custom in Japan and happily removes his slip-on—or slip-off, in this case—shoes. Removing his shoes presents a problem for him when he has to quickly run outside after a killer in stocking feet. But Bond’s lack of shoes does not stop him from catching up with the killer and taking his black-and-white footwear.

An important note to remember: If you ask your guests to remove their shoes when entering your home, especially if removing shoes in the home is not universal in your culture, please have a shoe horn available so they are able to easily put their shoes back on!

A shoe horn

Do you wear your shoes in the house? Leave a comment below!

26 COMMENTS

  1. Matt i can suggest you a topic?
    Seems to me that you have not talked yet about the wardrobe of John Steed/ Ralph Fiennes in the 1988 film “The Avengers”.
    Fiennes’s suits for the role are very interestings.
    All bespoke from Anderson & Sheppard are the quintessence of conservative British style.
    “The Avengers” 1988 is now on blu ray,and the details are well visibles.
    My favourite suit is the double breasted pin stipes in the weather laboratory sequence.

      • 1998.
        Well, are from Anderson & Sheppard.
        The production missed an opportunity (more that one); Steed’s suits had to be close at those of TV series ( New Edwardian).
        But apart from that Fiennes’suits in that movie are great bespoke suits.

      • I’ll be honest, I’m not terribly impressed with the quality of work I’ve seen from Anderson & Sheppard! If you look on The London Lounge, there are some rather justifiably disappointed customers. Their disciples, such as Thomas Mahon (Redmayne) and Edwin DeBoise (Steed) seem to make nicer clothing in the soft drape cut style. Something about the fit on Fiennes looks off, but I can’t really place what it is. The only dandyish touches they gave him were a horizontally striped waistcoat and another with wider spaced stripes than the coat and trousers, neither of which look very sophisticated. Turnback cuffs, covered buttons, hacking pockets, or a combination of all those things would have been far more welcome. I know for a fact A&S can do all of them.

  2. I think this is a good “left field” topic. In Britain whether one insists on guests taking their shoes off is intrinsically linked to your social class. The genuine upper classes would never ask a guest. Faddish middle class types might; the sort who live in antiseptic, over cleaned houses. Working folk class may be a bit mixed. Both my sister’s in law insist on it (to my quiet irritation). One went to Cambridge and the other works as a shop assistant, so go figure. Personally, if its a summer BBQ then I don’t mind as people will be walking in and out the house. At Christmas, I would be grateful if they bought their own slippers, but won’t get too annoyed if they don’t.

  3. Wait a minut..in these days in Britain are folks that ask to a guest to take off his shoes when he come in house??
    really??
    seriously?

  4. Interesting post, Matt.
    I share the irritation of some, and unless visiting Japan or a mosque, I hate being asked to remove my shoes. First because I look down on this custom, and secondly because I probably like my shoes too much to leave them;)
    There is a useful Italian word which I would gladly use in this circumstance: “cafone”.
    When I was (much) younger, the ‘shoe-exercise’ would be a revelator test when contemplating a potential relationship with a girlfriend. If she would ask me to remove my shoes (before the rest !) or if I would be asked to do so at her parents’ place, this would draw an immediate close to any further attempts, regardless of how attractive the girl was. Just as bad as bad table manners, or absence thereof, or drinking Dom Perignon which is not at the right temperature.

  5. In Australia, in the city when visiting family or friends apartments or houses some people prefer that visitors remove there shoes as they enter. Mostly to preserve expensive carpeting or floor work.

    So it can be quite common in my experience when visiting homes.

  6. Bingo.
    I was asked to remove my shoes when entering a new house where carpeting had just been done. The explanation given was that it was to prevent wear and tear..;)
    As if we could postpone this inevitability. Learning levitation would be more appropriate

  7. When dressed properly, I always keep my shoes on at home, but when dressed casually I tend to wear slippers. My late grandad always wore shoes indoors, but he had a pair of ‘old’ shoes that weren’t appropriate to wear out (there were cracked slightly and had lost both their shine and shape) but he would wear them pottering about in the house, and doing the gardening etc. Might I suggest a topic? You’ve previously looked at both Vaughn’s and Cavill’s dress as Napoleon Solo, so how about comparing original actors with their modern counterparts; how the latter pays tribute to the former. Like Macnee and Feinnes, or Moore and Kilmer.

    • Thank you for reminding me that I need a new pair of slippers!

      We don’t require that anyone remove their shoes, we just like to do so ourselves after an 8-9 hour work day.

  8. U.K. Here and it’s no shoes at my place.
    The social class drivel mentioned here is usually done by those pretending to be something they are not, have forgotten where they came from and are ashamed their dads were coal miners or steel workers. Social class is a manacle and as we can see here, it’s an effective method of social control
    Everyone automatically removes shoes at my place.
    Slippers are greAt in the house. People who wear shoes and suits in the house do so because they are terrified of what other people think. Talk about being shackled by pretence.
    Loosen up and relax in your own house forget what people,think and stopped being ashamed of your past.
    I love the prince al slippers.
    Great article

  9. Matt, have you considered looking at how Bond matches his watch to his clothes? The sports watches he’s famous for – Omega Seamasters, Rolex Submariners – are typically not dress watches but over time have become accepted as being worn with suits. Whilst some blogs focus entirely on the watch, yours could look at the appropriateness of the watch to the outfit (especially when you consider Craig’s habit of having metal braclets with leather, rubber, or NATO straps).

  10. When relaxing, I do kick off my shoes at times while watching television, but wear my navy blue Prince Albert slippers otherwise.

  11. The next logical topic would be what sort of footwear Bond wears in beach settings – somehow the wetsuit-to-dinner-jacket transformation at the beginning of Goldfinger never addresses how he changed into appropriate shoes, but what does he wear with the terry short pantsuit in Miami or in other situations where he’s wearing something casual?

  12. Here in Canada (or at least where I live), taking off your shoes is the standard. Some people leave their shoes on in their house, but most take them off, which probably goes back to the snowy weather here. But you are expected to take your shoes off when entering someone else’s house. I personally would never walk into someone’s house with my shoes on unless I was told I could or I asked first and was given an okay. It would kinda feel like you think you own the place if you just walked right into someone’s house with your shoes on. Thats just how people see it in my area.

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