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Are Those Shoes Appropriate For The Office?

July 13, 2013 4 min read

Shoes. That word is powerful and evokes an intense psychological and emotional response. Shoes. They serve a utilitarian purpose and are practical but can also be whimsical, sexy, or downright outrageous. Shoes. There is a time and place for every pair. I was inspired to write this post today after seeing a blatant misuse of shoes in a professional office environment. The shoes were 5" black patent leather open-toe strappy platforms with red trim. During the day. In an office building. At first, I didn't realize she was employed in the building until she later walked in the room where I was sitting. I was shocked! Not only was she wearing shoes fit for an exotic dancer, she paired them with a skin tight, too small, unflattering black pencil skirt with a wide belt and a bold patterned top with a plunging neckline. On top of that, her large upper thigh tattoo was peeking out from beneath her skirt. I couldn't stop looking at her and wondering how she was allowed to come to work dressed this way. It was completely unprofessional and extremely distracting. Having a few (or several) pairs of incredible shoes is what many of us live for. Being able to show them off to the world brings a certain level of pleasure. Receiving a compliment on how fantastic they are from a stranger on the street can make our day. But the office, especially in a conservative one, is not the place for that. The shoes in the picture above are definitely inappropriate footwear for the office. Save your glittery, studded, geometric, color blocked, tall platforms, and pairs that resemble art for nights out with the girls, special occasions, and when you want to feel ultra sexy or special. Don't wear them to a business meeting. They are distracting, look cheap, and diminish your credibility as a consummate  professional. No one is going to be paying attention to what you are saying - they will be too busy staring at your shoes (and not in a good way).    

Office Appropriate Shoes

  Work shoes should be conservative. They don't have to be boring, necessarily, but they need to be appropriate, comfortable, and compliment your overall professional appearance. Depending on your office culture and dress code, you might be able to wear shoes with a little more fun and flair, like open toe or colored shoes. If you wear open toe shoes be sure your feet are presentable. This means no chipped polish! A fresh coat of a neutral color or classic red is best and will coordinate with more colors in your wardrobe. Save your turquoise toes for the weekend. Also, be sure that your toenails are an appropriate length and have a simple shape. No one wants to look at talons that extend past the front of your shoe (even if they are polished!). If you choose to incorporate colored shoes into your work repertoire,  I  recommend you buy a high quality colored shoe that works with most of your work wardrobe. If you work in a more conservative office, stick to the basic pump in neutral colors like black, brown, navy, taupe (if you have olive or cool skin tones) and nude (be sure it compliments your skin tone). Sometimes, even in a conservative office environment, a colored shoe or animal print is acceptable. Just be sure the heel is not too high and that the toe is not too pointy; choose muted prints over bold ones. You want class over flash. Use this formula to curate a better shoe wardrobe with less pairs of shoes: Buy the highest quality shoe you can afford. Buy shoes that will be workhorses of your wardrobe. Think about how much time your feet spend in your work shoes each week. Wouldn't you rather have a few pairs of really great, high quality shoes over several cheap pairs? Shoes are worth the investment. Your foot health depends on it. Look  for soft leathers, solid construction, padded insoles, and a heel that will allow you to walk around and be comfortable throughout the day.  Suede shoes are great but be sure to apply a protectant to them for rain or snow, and only wear them during the cooler months. Patent can be pretty, but can scuff easily and look cheap. Unless you are willing to keep them scuff free, if you are hard on shoes, skip them. You might be reading this and saying, "Well, my office is really casual. I would never wear heels to work." Some offices really don't have a dress code whatsoever and allow any attire, including footwear. It doesn't matter: don't wear flip flops! They cheapen your entire look. And, they are noisy. Opt instead for a leather sandal or a flat. They are still casual but look polished. A good rule of thumb to help you decide whether or not a shoe is work appropriate, ask yourself, "Where else might I wear this shoe?" If your answer includes the nightclub, anywhere you would have to sit down more than stand up in order to wear them comfortably for more than a couple of hours, the beach, the pool, or the shower at the gym, then it is probably wise to choose another pair. What are your shoe rules? Have you been guilty of a footwear faux pas? I would love to hear what you have to say!  

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