4 Reasons Why Those Cute New Shoes Aren’t Office-Appropriate


This isn’t a question of what’s fair or convenient. This is a question of fitting into law firms or other legal environments—which are mostly conservative workplaces. Law firms were among the late adopters of business casual, and into the 1990s many frowned on female attorneys wearing pants. Likely this seems a bit crazy to you (it seems crazy to me, and I lived through it!), but it’s the reality you’re living and working in now.

So, again, let’s start with the assumption that, as a lawyer, you’re working in a conservative workplace that expects and enforces a conservative dress code. Sometimes, this enforcement is formal—there’s a written dress code, especially for business casual, and people are pulled aside and spoken to when they don’t meet that dress code. Other times, the dress code isn’t formally stated or enforced, but you will still be “punished” for not following it. In those cases, “punishment” may take the form of ridicule, gossip, lack of assignments or client contact, or more.

You may find (hopefully!) your office is on the less formal side and tolerates or even encourages a more relaxed dress code. After all, the dress code in a Wall Street law firm is going to be very different than the dress code in a legal aid clinic in Seattle. But until you’re absolutely sure what the dress code is, err on the side of formality.

With that in mind, here are some reasons why those cute shoes you bought aren’t office-appropriate. As we go through these, you’ll see that the commonality is these traits in “cute” shoes are all distracting.

1. They Show Your Toes. Whether you’ve spent the time to get a pedicure, or you’re comfortable with your gnarly toenails and hammertoes, the office isn’t the place to put your feet on display. Show off your pedicure outside the office. What’s worse is that, in many offices, women can’t show bare legs; they need to wear hose. Pantyhose in open-toed shoes is both unsightly and uncomfortable.

2. They Make Noise. Many fashionable shoes make a lot of noise when you walk. It might not be obvious to you when you’re trying them on in store, but when you’re walking through a quiet office hallway, the slap-slap of your sandals or open-backed shoes is loud, distracting, and unwelcome. You don’t want to be the annoying person people can hear coming from 100 yards!

3. They Hypnotize People. That big fabric rose? That giant rhinestone? The metallic leopard print? They’re all distracting. When you’re talking to people in the office, you want them focused on your brilliant argument, not sidetracked by your pedi-bling.

4. They Slow You Down. Many fashionable shoes—like stiletto heels—are just impractical. Sure, you probably spend most of the day in the office and don’t need to walk very much. But what happens when you do? When you’re dashing out of the office, trailing behind a partner, and dragging a lit bag through the city, dodging grates in the street, flagging down taxis, and rushing to the subway? Or maybe your office is in a historic district with beautiful cobblestone or brick sidewalks, manicured garden paths, and flights of marble stairs. How well will you keep up? How long before you twist your ankle?