Behold Australia’s Grossest Drinking Tradition: The Shoey

SYDNEY, Australia — In Australia, it’s not a question of if the shoe fits. It’s how much beer the shoe fits.

The rapper Post Malone chugged Bud Light nightly from sneakers thrown onstage by fans throughout his Australian tour this month. The country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves sipped tequila daintily from a glass slipper in Melbourne last week.

It’s called a shoey, and it’s a trend that’s thriving — or festering, depending on your stance — in Australian live music, as well as popping up at sporting events.

“We were told that shoeys were an Aussie tradition,” Jeffrey “Smitty” Smith, Post Malone’s D.J., said in a direct message on Twitter. “Fans just start chanting ‘shoey.’”

“The crowd goes insane over it.”

The origins of the shoey are murky. There are patchy oral histories of it occurring in Australia up to 20 years ago as an act of triumph and camaraderie, at parties or after sporting wins.

The founders of the Mad Hueys, an Australian fishing and outdoors brand, claim to have done shoeys at parties beginning in the late 1990s, and appear drinking from a sneaker in a surfing video in 2006.

Ms. Musgraves “probably didn’t want to do one, but when she’s got the crowd screaming at her to do a shoey, she’s got to do it,” said Shaun Harrington, 33, one of the Mad Hueys founders.

He paused. “You don’t have to do it, but it’s in your best interests,” he said.

One place where the ritual took hold was in Tasmanian punk circles just over a decade ago.

“It just became a thing we started doing,” said Tyler Richardson, the frontman of the Tasmanian punk band Luca Brasi. Mr. Richardson, now 31, started doing shoeys onstage around 2010 after seeing a friend do it in a pub a few years earlier.

“It seemed funny; we often got free drinks out of it,” he said. “Everyone wanted to fill up your shoe with beer.”

The Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo had a shoey after a race in Shanghai last year.CreditCharles Coates/Getty Images

He hasn’t done it in a long time, but describes a shoey as “wet” and “stinky.”

While some Australians are thrilled seeing a diverse roster of celebrities adopt, or at least tolerate, the shoey tradition, others fear that the worst of Australia’s good-natured rowdiness — known here as larrikinism — and binge-drinking culture is being unflatteringly thrust into the global spotlight.

Shoeys nearly caused an international incident in 2016, when a group of Australians known as the “Budgie Nine” were arrested in Malaysia after publicly stripping and drinking beer from their shoes.

Ms. Musgraves, who won album of the year at the Grammys this year, heard “shoey” chants during her show in Sydney last Monday.

“I’m not drinking out of your shoe,” she said to the fan who offered, adding an expletive for emphasis. “You could have athlete’s foot or something.”

But the next day in Melbourne, Ms. Musgraves held up a glass slipper that she had brought with her, downing a shoeful of tequila to whoops from the crowd.

Brodie Lancaster, a 29-year-old Australian culture writer and critic who was at both of Ms. Musgraves’ shows, said she had seen shoeys only at hard-core and punk shows in the past.

“I thought the shoey was over,” she said. “Maybe it’s moving to the mainstream.”

While shoeys have persisted for years, there’s a consensus that they have taken on new life — and new audiences — more recently in Australia, especially after Mr. Ricciardo began doing it after Formula One victories in 2016.

Both Formula One and the Mad Hueys have since registered trademarks of the word “shoey” in multiple countries, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, hoping to profit off sales of apparel and drinkware.

Some can’t wait for the trend to die.

Georgia Moloney, a 21-year-old concert photographer in Sydney, guesses she hears calls for “shoey” at one in five shows she shoots. To her, it’s embarrassing — especially when international artists are subjected to the chants.

“We’re the only country in the world demanding artists drink beer out of a shoe,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s really cringey.”

“It takes up a lot of time in the show as well,” she said.

The questionable nature of the act aside, will drinking out of a shoe actually make you sick?

The answer: Probably not.

“The infectious risk of someone with normal, healthy feet and an intact shoe would be pretty low,” said Anton Peleg, an infectious diseases expert at Monash University in Melbourne.

So, would he do a shoey?

“No! Get a cup!” he said. “Why drink out of a dirty, smelly shoe? It’s too gross.”

Or, at least, get a glass slipper.

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