If putting one’s feet on a table during meal times is rude, is placing one’s shoes alongside food any better?
This image appeared on our Instagram page, and it shocked us. It really did. That it came from Club 21 was even more disturbing. We thought it shameful, so inconsistent with what many of us were brought up to believe is acceptable. The oldest multi-label store here left standing has, a few hours ago, shared this on their official IG account, not in some remote corner of the Internet. Originally posted by Two Men Bagel House last week, it shows unambiguously a pair of plated (!) Comme des Garçons X Converse sneakers, placed next to two bowls of barely finished dry prawn noodles (虾面). It is possible that the shoes are unworn (and presumably clean), but is it still perfectly alright for them to be on a table that has, by practice and custom, no place for footwear? This is likely photographed in a hawker centre (or foodcourt), but just because it’s not in a setting that equals that of a restaurant does not mean liberties can be taken without thinking. To make it worse, Club 21 wrote in the comment: “simply delicious”! Have we really become so culturally ignorant and insensitive?
Popular culture, TikTok buffoonery, and the general do-and-say-as-you-please that social media affords may allow marketers to imagine that they have the green light to ignore table manners, but that does not mean marketing with a nod to common etiquette is no longer important. Or, worth considering in the quest for eye-catching photos or, worse, talking points. We risk sounding prudish and custom-bound, but in a time when brands and politicians are knocking, for example, the traditional use of chopsticks, should there be more perplexing ignorance regarding table-top practices? It is easy to dismiss the Club 21 post as the work of benighted Millennials (or Gen-Zers?), but that does not allow the image to be more acceptable. We could not unsee what we saw. That this did not come from some ignorant Western brand makes Club 21’s faux pas (and that of the two men they sponsored) all the more difficult to understand and accept. We are unaware of anywhere in Asia where shoes of any sort on a table used for meals, whether in one’s home or not, is decent or tolerable. Half of smiley-hearts do not take away the fact that the very act is crude and—ask any parent—rude.
Screen grab: Club 21/Instagram