There are people in this world who would just about give their right foot for a decent pair of shoes. Those poor barefoot souls (get it?) have to traverse tundra, desert, savannah, steppe or war-torn ghetto alike simply to fetch food and water.
In Australia however, we are lucky to be the beneficiaries of the meagre wages paid to the world’s poorest production-line cobblers, which allows us to buy shoes from the big chains for less than a ticket to watch an anti-globalisation documentary at Dendy.
These may not be the brands hoarded by Imelda Marcos or Carrie Bradshaw, but the two-for-the-price-of-one range available at Payless still do a better job of resisting abrasive terrain and sharp objects than your bare skin will.
Yet there seems to be an irrational desire by some inner city residents – seemingly not shared by the stolid foot-wearing minions of the outer suburbs – to negotiate the urban jungle sans shoes.
Sure there is something liberating about discarding footwear and allowing your feet to breathe. But we are not talking about running across alpine meadows as soft and moist as a sponge or strolling upon the powdery white shores of Jervis Bay or some other pristine paradise demanding barefoot frolics.
Parramatta Road is an obstacle course of broken beer bottles at the best of times, let alone at the worst (usually Sunday morning), and in the warmer months only firewalkers familiar with hot coals and self-induced trances can comfortably bare its molten surface.
And more than once a sinister syringe has been seen lurking in the alleyways of Newtown or fresh canine (I assume/hope) stool observed steaming on Norton Street.
Yet still people with contrived and laboured spontaneity, awkward yet proud bohemians take palpably uncomfortable barefoot steps around the Inner West.
Their hybrid gait seems torn between the irreverent strut of an urban dilettante and the cautious advances of a soldier negotiating a minefield. The absurdity of it all is magnified exponentially when the unnecessarily difficult passage is undertaken by pairs or even groups of shoeless hippies.
What item from Camperdown Cellars is so urgently required that you can’t take an extra three seconds to add thongs to an outfit that already includes superfluous hipster headwear (fedora, truckers cap, beanie etc)? A pair of socks? Boot polish?
If you want to live the barefoot lifestyle I suggest you go so somewhere geared for it. Perhaps a tropical island nirvana.
It’s probably cheaper than living in the Inner West after all.
Words: Jason Dunne, Inner West shoe-wearer.