Pop star Harry Styles dipped his toe into Aussie culture by doing a ‘shoey’ onstage. He’s the latest celebrity to embrace a trend that has a long history in Australia and beyond.

Singer, actor and 2023 Grammy Award winner Harry Styles recently made headlines around the world for doing a shoey at one of his Perth concerts.

For those not up with popular cultural trends, it involves filling a shoe with an alcoholic beverage and drinking the contents, ideally in one draught.

In the past, asking foreign celebrities to eat vegemite on toast was a common initiation into Aussie culture – the shoey takes this to a whole new level.

Where did the shoey start?

Australians can claim the word shoey as their own but the tradition of drinking out of a shoe has a long history outside this country. There are records and images of this drinking tradition from the early 20th century. The ritual may have more ancient roots as either a bringer of good fortune or part of hazing and initiation activities.

The word shoey and the drinking ritual it describes have developed more recently in Australia.

The shoey came to popular attention in Australia and elsewhere when Australian Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo performed one on the podium after finishing second in the 2016 German Grand Prix. The traditional victory celebration of spraying all and sundry with champagne was somewhat upstaged.  

Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has made the ‘shoey’ his trademark celebration. Photo: cristiano barni/Shutterstock.com

It was at this stage we became aware of the term at the Australian National Dictionary Centre. The shoey became such a phenomenon that year we decided it was worthy of a place on our Word of the Year shortlist – although democracy sausage beat it to the top spot.

Our research has revealed the word shoey goes back a few years before 2016. A 2010 entry in the online Urban Dictionary includes this definition and example sentence: ‘Shoey, pouring an entire alcoholic drink into your shoe and skulling it entirely, hey man pass me your shoe, i wanna do a shoey.’

Bottom’s up!

The reference to skulling indicates the Australianness of the term and something of the origins of the ritual in the Australian context. Skull (or skol) is an Australian word meaning to drink a glass of alcohol in one draught. The word has been around since at least the 1970s and it is often associated with party celebrations, dares and showing off in front of mates. Former prime minister Bob Hawke was known for having skulled a yard glass of beer in his university days.

The early evidence for shoey reveals similar contexts to that of skulling. We find it used at parties and events in sporting clubs, university colleges and music concerts. There is a fairly strong association of the shoey with punk concerts – either performed by the musicians on stage or by members of the audience.

From these origins we have seen the humble shoey grow into the more recent ‘celebrity dare’ – drinking from one’s shoe in summer is not for the faint-hearted!

The Australian word has now migrated to other Englishes as well. We recently added shoey to the Australian National Dictionary, which will be launched online later this year.

Shoey will now find a place alongside other notable Australianisms such as barbie, bogan, dinkum and she’ll be right mate.

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