What in the World Is a 'Shoey'?

By: Liz Giuffre  | 
Harry Styles
Harry Styles performs on stage during The BRIT Awards 2023 at The O2 Arena Feb. 11, 2023, in London, England. Just a few days later while in concert in Perth, Australia, he drank from his shoe on stage. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

"Shoey" is Australian slang for having a celebratory drink out of a shoe. Usually the beverage is alcoholic, and the celebration follows a sweaty quest to victory. The shoey has become a popular part of some sports and music festival cultures.

As a cultural phenomenon, the shoey represents overcoming adversity — literally drinking out of the vessels that got you over the line. Newly minted Grammy and BRIT award winner Harry Styles performed his first Australian concert — and we assume his first shoey — in Perth Feb. 20, 2023. See the footage (pun intended, sorry) below.


How the Shoey Got Its Start

One of the most famous supporters of the shoey is racing driver Daniel Ricciardo, someone for whom Styles has shown his own fandom. Footballers, surfers, musicians and various celebrities have also had a go.

Usually, shoeys are a cultural practice undertaken by men, although marathon runner Des Lindon, inspired by Ricciardo, also celebrated with a shoey, as did champion golfer Hannah Green.


Although Australians have claimed the shoey, they're not they only ones to partake in the practice.

Drinking from boots — or even delicate high heels — is said to have started in Europe. There are U.S. and Russian influences too, including drinking out of silk ballet flats.

Daniel Ricciardo shoey
Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium with a shoey during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco May 27, 2018, in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.
Dan Istitene/Getty Images


The Shoey and a Culture of Defiance

The contemporary Aussie shoey is really about defiance — claiming victory against the odds.

It's a type of attitude many different Australians have tapped into over generations, a classic trait of the "little battler" or "underdog" stereotype that sees triumph after a struggle.


Importantly, there is clear humor in the shoey; this is not a win steeped in earnest glory, but deliberately crowd-pleasing and silly. The resulting soggy shoe and terrible taste can also help ensure the winners aren't being attacked or resented for their success.

The shoey is a great leveler: It brings everyone down to the same (albeit pretty basic) level. Like other local party tricks and traditions, it can also bring an international guest into the fold. Someone willing to "do a shoey" is inevitably going to be accepted by the crowd.

The shoey does have its critics though. It is regularly called out as being messy, gross and just a bit disgusting. Styles played along but clearly didn't enjoy the actual act, joking it made him feel ashamed of himself.


Was Harry's Shoey Just a Shameless Local Reference?

Big touring artists may see hundreds of cities across a world tour. Typically these massive events are hugely formulaic and stage-managed, necessitated by the stadiums they play in and the scale they need to navigate.

To make each show memorable and, importantly, to draw audiences in, many add a specific local reference to the country or city they're playing in.


It could be a nod to the sporting team or attraction, or ideally to local artists to give them some additional exposure. In Australia, some just bring out a stuffed koala or reference a Vegemite sandwich onstage.

Styles' shoey was definitely an acknowledgement of an aspect of Australian culture, even if the beautiful designer sneaker he sipped from was a world away from a sweaty footy boot.

More impressive — and less likely to cause infection — was the inclusion of a cover of Daryl Braithwaite's 1990 version of Horses, a song that has gone from cool to daggy and all the way back again.

Styles hammed it up then proclaimed:

You don't hear that song very much until you get here, but then it's like catnip. ... I can feel the Aussie coursing through my veins!

It's not the first time Australian audiences have asked Styles for a shoey, but only now has he obliged. At a time when anyone around the world can stream just about any event (mostly legally), finding something special about each place and its audience can be tough.

The shoey is something those present won't forget in a hurry.

Liz Giuffre is a senior lecturer in communication at the University of Technology Sydney.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You can find the original article here.