Are heels an office fashion faux pas?


Over at The Fashion Police today, we have an article about crimes of office fashion, as decided by a new survey from fashion website Stylecompare. Obviously what’s acceptable in the office depends very much on the type of office you work in, but while I broadly agreed with many of the items suggested by the survey (too much cleavage and visible underwear are always going to be a big “no” in the workplace), I was a little surprised to find wedge heels and stilettos/pointy shoes on the list.

Again, I guess this depends on the type of shoe we’re talking about: high platforms, crazy wedges and anything very loud or “fashion forward” is probably going to raise eyebrows in a conservative workplace, and I know many offices frown on bare toes or strappy sandals. I don’t think ALL stilettos, pointed toes or wedges need to be banned from the office, though: for instance, the Christian Louboutin ‘Simple’ pumps shown above would’ve been considered perfectly acceptable in any of the offices I’ve ever worked in, where black, heeled pumps were pretty commonplace. (Although not necessarily Louboutin ones, mind you!) Similarly, there are plenty of closed toe, low wedges out there that are very modest, very plain (and very dull, if I’m being honest), and which I can’t imagine anyone seriously objecting to.

What do you think? Are stilettos and wedges a fashion faux pas in the office (If they are, I will never have been so glad to be self-employed!), or does it all depend on the shoe?

17 Comments

  • I can’t stop raving about my workplace: I don’t have to tone down my style. At all. I wear crazy ass shoes AND cleavage, and even if I do get some looks from time to time, the compliments from colleagues outshine those. In fact, apparently my colleagues are really looking forward to see what I will be wearing in the morning. Just to give you an example: today I’m wearing a silk leopard print wrap dress, dark opaque tights and my red Polly’s from Miss Selfridge. Exactly what I’m going to wear tonight to the pub. I’m so lucky to have such an open-minded work environment where I can be myself 100%!

    • That does sound good! The offices I worked in were fairly conservative in that people would wear mostly suits or other tailored pieces, but heeled pumps would’ve been fine – most of the senior female staff would wear shoes a bit like the ones pictures – closes toe, with a high-ish heel. I would have hated having to always wear flats or low heels: I just don’t feel like “me” in them, and the fitted suits and dresses I used to wear wouldn’t have looked the same with flats at all!

  • Well I’m currently interning at a newspaper that I will start at fulltime in a few months. I love big crazy heels as much as you do Amber (although my collection is nothing to rival yours!) but am mainly wearing my lower heeled shoes and steering clear of open toes a little bit. That’s mainly because it’s winter, but also I already wear rather vintage influenced clothes so I tone down the footwear a bit to balance that out.

    I guess it’s more about the overall look. If you’re looking like you could be heading to town rather than a meeting then it’s safe to say you’re doing it wrong!

    • Yes, very true… I wouldn’t have worn any of my crazier shoes to the office, but I did always wear heels, mostly just plain pumps. I would be wearing them with a suit or tailored skirt, though, mostly, so I always felt I could get away with shoes that were a little more “me”! Reading these rules make me very glad I don’t work in an office now, though!

  • In most offices in Lebanon all the women are in heels, the height depending on what the women are comfortable with. Heels are very much accepted here, it’s flats that are more of a no no in the office… but even that is changing.
    I’m OK with flats, wedges, and heels… but just as long is it’s not strappy sandals and everything is worn in a tasteful manner.

  • I’d get odd looks if I wore heels to the office – not because it would be inappropriate but because we are so casual here everyone would assume I had a job interview… It’s great that I can wear jeans and a hoody to work should the mood take me but I sometimes wish I could dress up a bit more. it makes you very lazy and the shoe challenge even harder! Heels and wedges, within normal limits, are perfectly acceptable office attire in my book though. Daft recommendations!

  • I know I can wear what I want to work in terms of shoes, whether it be high heels or sneakers. Despite working in publishing in NYC, the company is a ‘creative’ one which means we aren’t policed in many ways. I think the only rule is no shorts. But really, I don’t think I’d wear shorts to work.
    Apart from that, you can wear what you like so long as it doesn’t impede your ability to work.

  • I work in a place where the COO loves shoes. (She always shows off a new pair when she gets them and I do the same) My coworkers always look forward to any new apparel or shoes I wear. The boys dont, they are simply indifferent about the confusing thing called “Fashion” women love, but the girls do.

    We do business casual, with the emphasis being more casual if you arent working directly with the COO. Even though my department doesnt work for her, I tend to dress more on the business side. That means pretty heels and alluring 50’s style dresses and skirts. YAY!!

  • I work in an full service ad/design agency and we have a female MD and lots of heels at work. We have to be smart if client facing so no jeans, but I have never been asked to tone down my style, it shows personality and makes people comfortable and happy at work so long live the heel!

  • I’ve never worked in an office and every job I’ve ever had has been one where heels were a bad idea. But when I think office wear for women heels are just a given.

  • I think it totally depends on the shoe. I work in a government department and no-one has ever raised an eyebrow at my shoes. And I wear all types of shoes, with the exception of my sky-high Jimmy Choos which are too high to stagger around in at work all day anyway.

  • I think it depends on the shoes AND the office culture. My company is more casual than most, but I’m in the legal dept., so I probably could wear almost any shoes I want, but I choose to exercise a little bit of discretion. I generally wouldn’t wear anything OTT, but almost everything else is fair game. Lots of my shoe challenge posts are what I wear to work, too.

  • At one of my previous workplaces, that article would have been spot on!

    It was a law firm – and a wills/estate law firm at that, which for some reason meant our attire was expected to be far more conservative that other law offices (ie. family law, property law etc).

    Wedges were a definate no no! Heels were not allowed above a certain heel height (2.5/3 inches max I believe from memory) and certain styles were expected i.e closed toe, thicker heel, round/square front (with matching stockings of a certain colour and denier thickness for office staff).

    Basically our hairstyles and jewellery were our way of expressing ourselves, though these still had to be toned down. I did make the mistake of dying my hair a lovely (I thought) shade of mulberry once…that didn’t go down to well!

    All that being said though – one of the female lawyers/partners wore stilettos, pointy toes etc. So I guess the higher up the food chain you are, the more flexibilty you have.

  • Hi, I was working in a bank for about 2 years and a half and at the start everyone was telling me that you have to be conservative altough we were the youngest department in the bank and we had no contact what so ever with clients, but I refused to listen to them. If I had listen to them, my collection of 200 pair of shoes would have been doomed. So I wore a different pair of shoes every day, no matter if they are red, purple, high heeled, extravagant or just outrageus…and i also needed the clothes to match:)and you know what …even my boss was excited to see what I was going to wear next.

  • Hi, I have two friends with the opposite dilemma. At their offices is compulsory to wear heels. Obviously not crazy heels over 10 cm, but definitely flats are forbbiden.

  • I physically can’t wear heels to work. I work with challenging and volatile young people, so I need to be available at all times to restrain. And I miss the choice! I really do! Flats are my staple πŸ™

  • Except for banks and law offices, most companies in Belgium don’t have a very strict dress policy.
    So far I’ve been lucky enough to end up with companies where I was able to wear about everything I liked (yes, even my corset tops).
    My current employers policy is that you should be dressed neatly enough to not embaras them when clients unexpectedly visit, but you can fill this in as you like (suit, tailored skirt, jeans with a nice blouse), except on Friday when it’s casual day.

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