Student starts ‘soleful’ petition
to go shoeless after being dress-coded


Katie Johnson

Noah Paape, left, and Reed Gerritsen, right, wear no shoes after school. Noah started going shoeless three months ago. After being dress coded, he started a petition to go to school shoeless.

Noah Paape isn’t the typical sophomore. He’s got the long hair, painted nails, eccentric fashion taste and lack of shoes to prove it. The 15-year-old goes almost everywhere shoeless, from playing on-stage in his band Cadence, to restaurants, even church. The keyword here is almost. After being dress-coded on Jan. 8 by the school’s administration, Noah started a petition on to go to school shoeless, which currently has more than 290 signatures.

Paape went shoeless three months ago after he heard his peers talking about their expensive shoes. He said he traded materialism for minimalism and began going everywhere without shoes.

“Everyone all around is always like ‘look at these $500 shoes. Look at these $300 shoes,'” Paape said. “That’s ridiculous. I’m going to do the complete opposite of you, and I’m going to go shoeless.”

“I started going shoeless three months ago,” Paape said. “Literally everywhere. We went to a theatre convention and didn’t touch my shoes the entire time. I go to restaurants, I go to Kroger, literally everywhere. Going into it, I find the benefits and the comfort of going shoeless. It actually decreases joint inflammation and reduces depression and stress by 62 percent – doctor proven.”

Everyone all around is always like ‘look at these $500 shoes. Look at these $300 shoes,'” Paape said. “That’s ridiculous. I’m going to do the complete opposite of you, and I’m going to go shoeless

— Noah Paape

Paape went to school shoeless every day without issue for three months, but the first week back from winter break he got dress-coded and was told he had to start wearing shoes.

“The biggest change would be the publicity it’s gotten with the administration and being able to be comforted and comfortable everywhere you go,” Paape said. “When you’re at home, you’re comfortable. When you walk into school at 7 a.m. in a place you’d rather not be, you’re comfortable because you’re not wearing shoes.  There are multiple articles saying how going shoeless actually makes kids want to work more in classrooms because they’re comfortable and they feel safe.”

The administration views Paape’s shoelessness as a safety concern and a violation of Rule No. 4 in the “Student Dressing and Grooming Handbook.” 

“At the end of the day, we get the student handbook from the school board. and it’s very specific,” assistant principal Julie Brantley said. “The policy isn’t on a personal note. We just want what’s best for our students and prioritize their safety.”

Despite his petition, Paape is required to wear shoes during school and is often checked by administrators to make sure he’s following the handbook.

“I felt like my individuality was being taken away, and I felt like I was being judged,” Paape said. “I think that dress code can take individuality away because you can express what you’re feeling and who you are through your clothing, but I also feel a lot of dress code is reasonable. Like, teachers can have facial hair, but students can’t. That’s hypocritical.”

Paape resorted to the petition when he felt like he was out of options.

“I thought if I did something like this it will show the admin I actually care,” Paape said. “They’re being stubborn and close-minded and won’t even look at the benefits of going shoeless.”

One of the benefits Paape said he has found is that going shoeless helps him playing guitar onstage.

“When I use my guitar pedals, you have more control over your feet when you’re shoeless,” Paape said.

“Noah’s shoeless lifestyle has actually never posed an issue until the situation with the administration occurred,” Paape’s bandmate and best friend Reed Gerritsen said. “I think the whole situation was blown incredibly out of proportion, and I think the admin, in general, need to be more open to hearing feedback about certain rules and being open to new ideas and concepts, even if they aren’t implicated. Students should at least be heard and not punished for posing new ideas.”

Gerritsen said he has only known Paape for a year, but that they have developed an inseparable brotherhood.

“He’s been my best friend for a long time,” Gerritsen said. “I can’t think of anyone who has helped me feel more comfortable with my own self-image and supportive of every facet of life.”

Although Paape is still required to wear shoes, his friends – and others who have signed his petition -continue to see him as a role model.

“Noah being shoeless has been an incredible inspiration to me because being such an advocate for self-expression and for people being comfortable in his own skin,” Gerritsen said. “I support him 100 percent.”