“No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”: It’s Really Fairly Recent


Those “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs really seem to be a recent phenomenon. As Professor Terry Anderson noted in his book, The Movement and the Sixties:

Citizens reacted to the hippie threat in many ways. Country-western singer Merle Haggard condemned the counterculture in his hit tune, “Okie from Muskogee,” and singer Anita Bryant held “rallies for decency.” Southern Methodist University officials attempted to stop mail posted to the campus address of “Notes from the Underground,” while a group of alumni and students threatened violence if the “filthy sheet causing embarrassment” did not stop publication. Businessmen across the country put up door signs, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” while Marc’s Big Boy in Milwaukee hired a cop to make sure that no one with beads, beards, flowers, sandals, long hair, or funny glasses was allowed inside to buy a double hamburger.

Those signs were nothing more than the reaction of stores to hippies. Labeling them as “no shirt, no shoes” was simply the easiest way to keep them out.

Furthermore, this conclusion is reinforced by researching other sources. If one looks at many on-line newspaper and magazine resources, the earliest one can find a reference to such a sign is the early 1970s. The sign just didn’t exist much before then.

Of course, the signs spread like wild-fire, and before too long people became convinced that the signs were required by Health Codes (they’re not). These days, most stores do not have such signs, but the myth of the Health Code lives on. Also, folks have become conditioned to think that such signs are on the doors of every establishment, and I am regularly asked about such signs. But if you take the time to look, there are only just a very few stores (CVS comes to mind) that have those or similar signs.

Regarding Health Codes, the Society for Barefoot Living regularly writes to the Departments of Health for all the states to confirm that there are no such Health Department requirements. You can see the resulting reply letters here.

4 Responses to ““No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”: It’s Really Fairly Recent”

  1. Beach Bum Says:

    Yes, I was a kid in the 1960s, and a teenager in the 1970s, with WWII generation parents who were anti-hippie. There was never a doubt in my mind as to the fact that those signs were aimed at keeping hippies out. (And I do remember that song, “Okie from Muskogee”, 1969, I think). Even long haired men were being kicked out of stores. When I first learned to read during the late 1960s, those signs were already starting to go up, but they were worded simply “no bare feet” in most places. I did not see the “no shirt, no shoes, no service version until later the 1970s.
    It was already causing controversy in 1965 – before the ‘official’ hippie era, from the Los Angeles Times, you would need to purchase the articles, but the summary gives you a good idea:

    Parents, at Least, Like Bare Feet Ban
    May 23, 1965 – ARCADIA – A move to stamp out bare feet in public places of Arcadia is gaining governmental attention and winning parental praise. … Their proposal to ban bare feet in public places has been referred by the councilmen to the City Health and Sanitation..
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/486719802 …

    And maybe one of the earliest anti-barefoot signs:

    Aug 16, 1966 – Presumably as a result of sloppy female attire, one of the better department store chains has posted this notice at the entrance to the restaurant in its Pasadena branch: “Out of Consideration for our customers, buffet service will be refused to persons in bare feet”. …
    From Motorists Get Green Light—and Pedestrians See Red

    Nov 22, 1966 – An upstairs coffee shop in a new Glendale shopping center takes a stand against the cult of sloppiness with the notice on the entrance, “Welcome young people-but not with bare feet” . . .
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/486274692 …

    And, from the NY Times:
    From “Atmosphere in Greenwich, Conn., Is Cosmopolitan”
    Aug 30, 1969 – 45 East Putnam Avenue, a store that specializes in children s clothes and small sizes for women, there is a sign that shows that Greenwich is indeed aware of 20th-century mores. Placed conspicuously on the door. the sign reads “No Bare Feet, Please.” By JOAN COOK.

    From “Nantucket Visit Marks Melville’s Birthday”
    Sep 8, 1969 – To honor Herman Melville, his 20th century friends come to a village where young boys play touch football in the streets; young mothers ride bicycles with children in jumpseats behind; cocktail lounges and gift shops line the sidewalks; signs proclaim “No bare feet” and “Your Bank …

    And from the LA Times:
    From “Living the Good, Casual Life at Newport Beach”
    Sep 28, 1969 – “No bare feet” says a sign out side the club- house. S Members recently received the following: “There are no undue restrictions to crimp your comfort or cramp your style at the BBC. But hippie-type dress is distasteful to the overwhelming majority of members. …

    And more proof that you are correct:
    Jun 7, 1970 – Southampton houses tend to have names (Tanglebrae, Children at Play; Puffin Hall, Colonnades), and the Dunningtons’ is no exception. … They all shod feet on the that only hippies go barefoot and that the elimination of bare feet automatically eliminates hippies from the shops. …
    From Article 1 — No Title

    And the myth already has started, Oct 16, 1970, from the Bangor Daily News:
    “Some local stores have displayed signs of late stating “no bare feet allowed.” we understand that it is a state law that bare feet are not permitted where food is served. A similar sign was. and a query brought the reply- that they just wanted keep the floor clean. … ”
    Link to whole article:

    BUT – that whole ‘hippie’ look really hit the mainstream by 1970 and 1971. Now ‘regular’ young people looked just like hippies did a few years earlier. The distinctions have been blurred:

    A reprint of an article, originally from the New York Times, Sept 1, 1970, but here from the Spokesman Review, Sept 3, 1970, page 16:


    The Tuscaloosa News from June 9, 1971. Other countries just did not get why well off young people in America would choose to go barefoot:
    Page 31, short article entitled “Patched-Up Barefoot Look in Style in U.S.”

    So once everyone was doing it, you could not stop it, see the Eugene Register-Guard Feb 1, 1976, article about mall cops:
    “Inside the building they have similar center regulations to enforce. Valley River still requires that shoppers wear shirts, although it has given up on prohibiting bare feet.”

    That is how I remembered it. The signs were not enforced, they just gave up. Then going barefoot went out of style during the 1980s, and society quickly forgot, and did not pass on that information to the younger generations….

  2. Bob Neinast Says:

    Beach Bum,

    Great stuff! Thanks for taking the time to put this all together.

  3. Beach Bum Says:

    And here are a few more, talking about the signs, and one where they actually took the signs down, in Boca Raton Florida:

    Boca Raton News, May 14, 1972 “Last Sign Removed”

    August 1, 1972 Reading Eagle “Unshod no longer welcome in business places”

    December 10, 1972 Eugene register guard
    “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.”

    And New England is and was the worst, from the Chicago Tribune:

    May 6, 1973 – The doorways of all shops carry the same pre-lettered sign: “No bare feet, please.” For those without bare feet, the bakery and Ice cream parlor on Main Street is a Nantucket version of the Left Bank. One can sit for hours at a marble table, watching the summer hustle. …
    From Ahoy, sailors: pull up anchor in New England

    And Robert, I think you should get some of those 1965 LaTimes articles- there is something that you could relate to, that is, the Arcadia California Public Library. And unlike the sheep of today, local teenagers banded together to protest the ban on bare feet:

    Barefoot Boys Stage March on Council
    Jun 16, 1965 – A band of local teenagers appeared before the City Council Tuesday in their bare feet to protest a proposed ordinance banning bare feet. BAN BALKED. BAN BALKED … Foster asked the council why not a ban on bare hands. As many germs were spread that way as by bare feet, he said. …
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/486890132 …

    The Week in Review
    Jun 20, 1965 – ARCADIA S City Council Tuesday night delegated to the Library Board and City Manager Harold Schone to decide if bare feet should be banned in the city library and city-owned buildings.
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/486922992 …

    Jul 5, 1965 – The Arcadia, Cal., city council-roused from their siesta by a couple of persuasive dermatologists-has voted to prohibit all bare feet from contaminating the sterile and antiseptic confines of that city’s public library.
    From Other 7 — No Title
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/access …

    Library Board Asks Voluntary Bare Feet Ban
    Jul 16, 1965 – Board voted unanimously Thursday night to ban bare feet in the City Library by voluntary compliance rather than by prohibition. … The move to ban bare feet began last month when two dermatologists pointed out that foot diseases could be transmitted by persons walking barefoot in …
    pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/484827332 …

    What was going on in 1965 to prompt this? This is before hippies, most were just starting in San Francisco, I suppose these were surfer dudes and skateboarders?

  4. Eugene Says:

    There is a variation “Shirt and shoes required”. But nothing is said about pants.
    It’s a stupid rule that, as far as I know, could be encountered only in US.

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