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Shoeless UNC students say it’s a personal choice

(Left) Jonah Howell and Hunter Brake pose for a picture. Both students walk barefoot across campus. 

(Left) Jonah Howell and Hunter Brake pose for a picture. Both students walk barefoot across campus. 

Hunter Brake and Jonah Howell are easy to spot on a daily basis. They are the two guys who make sure their feet get fresh air every day.

The two friends choose not to wear shoes every day, and on a nice day, they leave their shirts at home, too.

“You wake up every morning and decide to put shoes on. That’s one less decision I have to make,” Brake said. “Shoes don’t do anything for me.”

Brake, a senior music major, said he found himself trying to fit in with others on campus when he first arrived at UNC. Once he realized he did not exactly match up with everyone, he decided to do what felt right for him.

“I just got weirder and weirder and found a way to make it pleasantly ironic,” he said.

Howell, a sophomore linguistics major, has a more philosophical reason for his choice.

“I have no self,” he said. “If I have no self, then how would I wear shoes?” 

Brake and Howell said not wearing shoes is a conscious decision.

They also thought carefully about their recent encounter with Gary Birdsong, the Pit Preacher. The two wore tiny shorts and held a sign that read “Satan luvs u.”

They said they researched Satanism before and thought the best platform to share it with others would be with Gary in the Pit.

“The more fun we are having and lighthearted we are being with a topic that is deemed a heavier, dark topic, the funnier and more ironic it becomes,” Brake said.

Howell said his friendship with Brake blossomed over lunch at Rams Head Dining Hall.

“We ran into each other in Rams and had this really bland, sterile conversation that lasted about three months,” Howell said.

They came to have many things in common and are now on the same club gymnastics team. Their unique friendship means their interactions are never boring.

Brake and Howell bounce ideas off each other and find themselves sharing many of the same thoughts, making their friendship special.

“We play Ping-Pong with an idea until it just explodes into a flame,” Brake said.

Howell chose a different simile to describe their friendship: “It’s like yelling into a megaphone in an amphitheater.”

Junior Emily Montes, who does wear shoes, said she thinks walking around barefoot is not as big a deal as some people might think.

“I’m from Asheville ... So for me, it’s sort of a normal thing,” she said. “I feel like I’m not as freaked out by it as probably a lot of people are, because that’s a very normal thing in Asheville. I think it’s totally awesome, and I’ll probably do it some time in my life.”

Brake said not wearing shoes is a personal choice for him and he doesn’t care about what other people think.

“I do it because it’s comfortable,” he said. “I just like it. I don’t think anything of it.”

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