“No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” – How Did This Originate?
When you were a young, carefree person in your teens or early 20s, you very possibly could have encountered those glaring signs on restaurant doors that stated “no shirt, no shoes, no service”. Were you ever chastised or thrown out of a place if you didn’t have shoes on? Many teens from the late 60s-early 70s were. I recall being turned away because of my hair, not a lack of shoes or shirt…and my hair wasn’t even that long…maybe a ‘teenage Donny Osmond’ long, but that’s it.
So where did the above-mentioned stern threat come from – demanding you to wear shoes and a shirt? Some of these little intimidations even carried the tagline: “by order of the Board of Health”. Now, that seems logical, because dirty feet bring in germs and bacteria, and no shirt means other customers may be subjected to your body odor…or worse yet, little loose armpit hairs falling into their french fries.
Well guess what? According to Sporcle.com, there wasn’t any state or federal law that said you have to wear shoes in a restaurant. So which “board of health” were these establishments referring to? Probably the office of the restaurant’s assistant manager (why are assistant managers always crankier than the regular manager?).
These “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs gained a lot of momentum in the 60s thanks to the Civil Rights Movement. No longer could restaurants or other businesses turn someone away simply because of the color of their skin…..but they could keep someone out for not wearing shoes and not appear to be racist. And during summer, many young people – of all colors - did not wear shoes.
It wasn’t simply a race thing. It was also an anti-hippie thing. In the late 60s and early 70s the ‘hippies’ were notorious for not wearing shoes, going shirtless, and loitering. Was it an attempt by private business owners to get rid of hippies once and for all? A 1972 newspaper based in Eugene, Oregon had an article which included: “Hippies have taken over the north end of town and the business people don’t like it. They have signs saying shoes and shirts are required–no entrance to bare feet.”
Living in Michigan - or anywhere in the Midwest – if a male had long hair, beards, or sideburns, and anyone wore colorful clothes, beads, headbands, bell bottoms, vests.....you were more than likely labeled as a “dirty hippie” (no matter how clean you were) and looked down upon with scorn by the World War II Generation. These were mainly the ones who wanted to keep “those damn hippies” out of their establishments. Midwesterners seemed to have less tolerance for the “peace & love” generation, unlike those on the east & west coasts.
Again, there was no law that said you couldn’t wear shoes – just the law of the business owner or manager. So “no shoes, no shirt, no service” was an attempt to keep out people they simply didn’t want as customers. And it seems the main victims were not members of any race, but those of the hippie culture.
For much more analysis and info, read the entire article at Sporcle.com and weigh in with your own thoughts.
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service