cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,

If the shoe fits

I was sitting in town waiting for the bus today, and found myself noticing the different shoes the women were wearing. I rarely notice shoes, but I found this fascinating -- not only because of the variety, but because of the effect they had on me. (ETA: I should have said that the part of town I was in was the office hub of the city, so I'm talking about identifiably female office workers pretty much exclusively here. I totally agree with the people in comments saying that other types of shoes are professional in different contexts.)

Broadly speaking the shoe types fell into four categories:

  • casual (flip-flops, flat-heeled scuffs, sports shoes)
  • work casual (dressy flip-flops, scuffs that were pretending to be court shoes, sandles)
  • high heels
  • low-heeled dress shoes/court shoes

The shoe type had a strong correlation (as you'd expect) with how dressy the woman's outfit was, but also with how "seriously" I responded to the woman.

The women in casual and work casual shoes also wore casual clothes, or cheap work clothes -- the types of outfits you wear to an office when you first start working in a generic admin/clerk role. They didn't really strike me as especially competent or professional. (I'm talking at first glance here.)

The women in heels tended to have the flashiest outfits. Several of them were impeccably dressed, and clearly career women, and they also didn't ping me as especially competent or professional -- they all had that slightly unsteady gait high heels gives you on a rought footpath, no matter how practiced you are.

The women in the low-heeled dress shoes or court shoes tended to be wearing dress or pant suits, and not just any suits -- at first glance they were really plain, but at second glance they were gorgeously tailored. They wore less accessories, but the ones they did wear were real (rather than dress jewellery). They wore minimal make-up, and tended to have short hair. And they all pinged me as smart, competent and professional. If I were asked to randomly choose someone to work for me, they are the women I would have picked out of a line-up.

The irony is that most of the women walking down the street in business clothes today were wearing casual scuffs or high heels, and very few were in the low-heeled court shoes.

So now I'm wondering if my reaction is down to my personal bias and/or enculturation, or whether most people respond this way. Because if most people respond this way, it's even crazier than women are wearing high-heels to work! (ETA: I'm facepalming at this paragraph. Of course my response is encultured. Doh. What I meant was: has this reaction become a cross-cultural norm?)

Obviously, for a topic this important, we need a poll.

Poll #1171362 Well Heeled

Which type of shoe pings you as most professional?

dressy scuffs/flip-flops
high heels
low-heeled dress shoes/court shoes
other (and I'll tell you all about it in comments)

If you were dressing up to look professional, you'd wear:

dressy scuffs/flip-flops
high heels
low-heeled dress shoes/court shoes
other (and I'll tell you all about it in comments)
it depends (and I'll explain in comments)

Which is more professional?

A plain, classically tailored suit
A stylishly tailored suit
A stylish outfit that's not a suit
It's all in the accessories
Other (commenting now!)
Tags: discussion, feminism, poll
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