The only thing booming more than Byron Bay’s property market is the local podiatry industry.
The barefoot movement – spearheaded by the once-sleepy shire’s most famous resident Chris Hemsworth – came to a calloused head over the holiday season as rich out-of-towners took to the streets of the seaside city and pounded the pavement sans shoes, just like the locals.
I travelled to the coastal celeb mecca this week to continue my years-long investigation into why the Hemsworths never wear shoes, because public service journalism is not dead (game on, Four Corners).
Since moving to Byron Bay, the famous family has been snapped endlessly by local paparazzi as they run all over town barefoot and we’ve raised many questions about the odd trend in this column. Does the no-shoe lifestyle lead to extremely dry and cracked heels? Do Chris and Elsa end each day by using one of those electric foot sanders you have to buy from the chemist? They probably have monogrammed his-and-hers foot sanders.
To get to the bottom of the trend, there’s only one thing to do: kick off your shoes and hit the streets.
Over these summer holidays, the town was overflowing with rich people trying to blend in by going barefoot. And locals weren’t happy with the wealthy newbies elbowing in on the craze.
“One girl said to me, ‘Oh my god! You’re not wearing shoes! That’s so Byron!” a local crystal stall owner told me. “I’m like, it’s just how I live — it’s not a fashion choice.”
In short, rich people are appropriating Byron’s barefoot culture.
It’s only upon going barefoot that you realise how readily-available shoes are in the town. There’s a glut of shoes. Local business owners can’t even give them away.
Exhibit A! Have you ever seen a store with so many shoes?
And sustainability isn’t an excuse. For the eco-conscious, you can even purchase shoes made of cork.
The discovery of this footwear stash raises an important question. If shoes are available for the masses, why do the Hemsworths and other Byron locals opt out of footwear?
Dig a little deeper and the answer is clear: the shoes are ugly.
Like, yes, shoes are available. But also, these are the shoes that are available. It’s no wonder Chris is going barefoot. As if Thor would be caught dead wearing cork shoes.
But there is a dark side to the “no shoes, no worries” lifestyle.
Swanning along Jonson Street, I stepped on glass. And then when I tried to step out of the glass, I stepped in the remnants of a discarded burrito.
It’s not easy being Chris Hemsworth.
EVERYTHING RIDICULOUS IN BYRON BAY
Byron Bay is a melting pot of ridiculousness.
And just when you think it can’t get any more ridiculous than cork shoes, you go into a boutique and find overpriced hobo clothes.
Want to look like a medieval swamp witch? Byron has the outfit for you! Whatever this is below can be yours for the reasonable price of $1,400. You can purchase it with all the money you saved by not buying shoes.
Still have cash to burn? Snap up this statement candle in the shape of a shaka sign. Pretty soon, Glade will get in on the lucrative sign language candle market. And thank gosh. I’ve been looking everywhere for a sandalwood middle finger candle.
Make sure you squeeze in some celeb spotting at the trendy eateries. The General Store cafe is where it’s at. The Hemsworths have been papped there and it’s the same joint Zac Efron picked up that waitress he’s dating.
But word of warning: it’s a plant-based cafe. It doesn’t matter what you order, everything literally tastes like garden.
Public service announcement: stop putting sprouts on everything!
Inside the cafe, everyone acts earthy and spiritual, but bring it up later in the night and they’ll let their true colours show.
“I just wanted bacon!” someone shrieked over drinks as everyone complained about their plant-based breakfast.
What the shire lacks in shoes, it makes up for with Range Rovers. And when you’re not being trampled by rich Sydney dames wearing too much linen, you’re getting locked in annoying conversations with hipsters.
“We’re here to go to a permaculture farm,” one guy wandering the street while playing a ukulele explained.
He was wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and overalls with one undone strap.
“We met at an ecstatic dance and voice activation gig,” he looked lovingly at his girlfriend while I picked burrito off my foot. “It’s conscious clubbing. If you do it properly, it’s like taking MDMA”.
Take in the local history by visiting the heritage-listed lighthouse that’s perched on Australia’s most easterly point. What should you do there? Take bikini selfies like all the other influencers. Duh.
And if you really wanna get in the Byron spirit, swing by a crystal stall and peruse the wide selection of polished rocks that have the power to change your life.
“They can really just mean whatever you want them to mean,” one crystal purveyor shrugged.
Ah. That authentic Byron magic.