Heels are a fashion faux pas in the office, says survey. What do you think?

Casadei stilettos (click here to buy them): not for the office.

Ever wondered what the worst thing you could wear to the office might be? The biggest crime of workwear fashion? The one item of clothing that could instantly lose you both the respect of your colleages, and possibly your job?

Luckily, you don’t need to wonder, for fashion website Stylecompare has commissioned a survey in order to answer these very questions, and the results show that the top ten crimes of office fashion are…

1. Cleavage.

2. Frayed clothing.

3. Ugg boots.

4. Jeans.

5. Piercings.

6. Visible underwear.

7. Fake tan.

8. Stilettos/pointed shoes.

9. Bling jewellery.

10. Wedge heels.

Now, most of these we could all probably have worked out for ourselves, couldn’t we? For instance, most office workers probably don’t need to take a quick poll in order to work out that this:

probably wouldn’t go down well in a professional business setting. (Although, we guess it might depend on the business…)

We’d broadly agree with the majority of these, however, minus a few little quibbles. Jeans, for instance, may not be acceptable in a very conservative office setting, but could be perfectly normal in a more creative type of office: it all depends on the office. And the jeans.

Stilettos/pointy shoes, though? Wedge heels? Since when did all forms of stilettos or wedges become a fashion faux pas in the office? Sure, something like this:

(Stripper shoes by Pleaser: click here to buy)

is most definitely not appropriate in the office. Even something like this:

(Giuseppe Zanotti blue suede peep toes: click here to buy them)

is probably going to be pushing it a little (or a lot), unless you happen to work in fashion, or some other industry in which bold style statements are considered a plus rather than a minus. Many offices will consider sandal-type shoes, which expose the toes or most of the rest of the foot to be against their dress code, too.

There are plenty of pairs of perfectly respectable, stiletto heeled pumps out there, though – even pointed-toe ones – which shouldn’t cause a stir in the office. Take these, for instance:

(Christian Louboutin Simple pumps: click here to buy them)

This particular shoe is by Christian Louboutin, but the black heeled pump has been an office staple for a long time, and we can’t really think of a good reason why these would cause conniptions at work, can you?

As for wedges, meanwhile: well, again, it really depends on the shoe. These, for example, are likely to get the thumbs-down from the boss (unless the boss IS actually Jeffrey Campbell, in which case you can disregard everything we’ve just said. Everything we’ve EVER said, actually.) if you work in a conservative type of office:

(Jeffrey Campbell ‘Skate’ shoes: click here to buy)

Ditto these:

(Irregular Choice ‘Susie Spruce’ wedges: click here to buy them)

These, on the other hand:

(Tory Burch wedges: click here to buy them)

These are surely dull enough for almost any office, surely?

So, what do you think, Fashion Police jurors? Are all stilettos and wedges really inappropriate for the office, or does it depend on what kind of stilettos or wedges they are?

What’s your office dress code?

20 Comments

  • July 20, 2011

    Sarah

    At my office, no one bats an eye at my jeans or my facial piercing. They would look askance at tottering heels though. That may be just Seattle for you…

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  • July 20, 2011

    Abi

    Definitely a no-no. Tottering about between the photocopier and your desk is just not a good look – at all.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Cat

    Dress code? What’s a dress code? *glances over at chap in bermuda shorts and football t-shirt, looks down at own vintage dress and wedges, shrugs*

    I’ve worked places that banned flip flops and trainers but that’s as strict as I’ve ever seen a dress code get on the subject of shoes. What a weird list.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Rachel Gray

    “No shoes, no shirt, no service.”

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  • July 20, 2011

    Daisy

    We don’t exactly have a dress code either. I can go all out with my look: nose piercing, lots of earrings, cleavage (not the Christina H. type though, obviously, just some), 5 inch heels, short skirts (albeit not combined with the cleavage, it’s one of my rules: a girl needs to choose between boobs or legs) and even visible tattoos (although they are small, feminine and discreet). I love it, I can’t imagine having to work in a conservative environment. Luckily the media are pretty open-minded usually.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Cristina

    Well I check 7 boxes out of 10 on the list, and still work in an office.

    If you’re going to enforce a dress code at work, wouldn’t it just be easier to implement a uniform and be done with it?

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  • July 20, 2011

    maxyne baker

    According to Leonard Shlain, we are the only primates that have perfected the art of cryptic ovulation. Meaning that unlike our other primate sisters, when we come into estrus, our genitals do not swell or change pallor. We have no outward tell tale signs that we are fertile. Whether in compensation or as a means of social control, we have learned to mimic estrus, to entice males, when we want. Bright red lipstick and a submissive grin is the most obvious illustration of this observation. A Victorian ladies bustle might be another. High heels have been acclaimed to do the same.

    Heels as we know, change the curve of our spine, to lift the buttocks accentuating their fullness, mimicking estrous. In this way the heel is enticing because it changes our posture subliminally suggesting the intimacy of sex. This is clearly a social semiotic for available fertility-sex. The subtleties of footwear’s form can hold further social messages or semiotics. Through colour, texture, shape the high heel can send a variety of sexual invitations implying intimacy, being made all the more alluring when explored in the social sphere.

    Beyond this, the heel has a deep history rooted in classism. Understand that, prior to the rise of the bourgeois, only the nobility where able to wear heels. It separated the upper class from the commoners by visually lifting the rich above the dirt of the street. Some Kings made it an essential part of their court dress for both men and women. Even in Cullwick’s time, penal laws forbid commoners such sumptuousness. It would only makes sense that heels became a middle class symbol of achievement as they where previously inaccessible to this new class of people. I maintain that this same symbol of classism exists today within the likeness of the heel, perhaps further strengthened by the contradictions and confusion surrounding public and private in and around the development of the middle class (as discussed in Imperial Leather). The historic yet still present obsessions with clean and dirty women; clean and dirty sex is condensed in a high-heeled shoe.

    Given its history of classism, the semiotics of the heel suggests ‘attainment of a higher social class in conjunction with sexual access’. In understanding that males seek to attain status or high standing because attaining exalted positions in pecking orders is a decisive means by which he can secure access to females.” here we can see that the modern man is attracted to what Marx called the ‘commodity fetish’ of the high-heeled shoe and she who wears it, because he sees them as bringing him sex, class, and power. True, the wearer and the shoe have been lumped into this ‘commodity fetish’, but who is the submissive? In turn for sex and power, the man offers the wearer the possibility of security to raise her young, social status and joint capital. Given another scenario she can also use sexual power in the work place as political leverage, which can be utilized towards the end goal of personal capital gain.

    Either way, by attracting a mate with the intent of marrying (selling sex for security and a boosted economy) or by wearing heels and using sexuality in the workplace (personal economic gain) heels sell sex. Even though we manipulate men with our sexuality for control of their capital, by buying into this patriarchal system (where statistically we only make 70% of a mans capital) we still are dependant of men for our (their) capital. We are still working, yet appearing not to work.

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    • July 20, 2011

      Nell

      This is really interesting! But, I have to say, I have worn heels and skirts (never shorter than kneelength) to work before, never with the intention of finding a mate… Mostly, if I have a lovely new pair of shoes, I’ll wear them to show them off – and the only people who seem to notice this sort of thing is other women in the office! Maybe men do too, but honestly, I haven’t found much of a difference in terms of male attitudes towards me when I am wearing heels or flats.

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  • July 20, 2011

    msveve

    I work in a lab and have to wear a lab coat, lab pant and lab shirt and have to wear “lab shoes” as well. Wearing a pair of heels in the lab would be insane (I love heels and own quite a big collection of heeled shoes but in the lab, it’s safety first. And also outdoor shoes aren’t worn in the lab, to keep things clean..) The university I work for also bands certain types of clothing even for JUST coming into the building complex: such as my tattooes have to be covered etc etc. But then again, I don’t work in an office.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Itzel

    I’ve never worked in a place where I’m not allowed to wear whatever I want but then again I never wear the things on the list (except for cleavage but not over the top). I have a tattoo and I hope never to find myself in a place where I have to hide it, I don’t wear high heels because I’m clumsy and I know that after 30 mins my feet would be killing me.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Louise

    I work in an office with a very relaxed dress code, and as such the things people wear varies from very conservative suits, right through to me in my floral dresses or suchlike. Since I’m jobhunting though in a more corporate environment, I’ve started paying more attention to buying some more ‘office appropriate’ clothes, and one of the pairs of shoes I’ve bought are pointed heels in chocolate brown. What on earth could be wrong with them? They are smart, they look like you’ve tried to look presentable and it’s far better than plodding round in UGG(ly) boots. I think surveys like this one are complete tosh… most people are too busy trying to hold onto their jobs in offices to be examining what footwear you have on.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Fi

    I wear heels (stilettoes or wedges) most days, jeans are fine on Fridays and I have been known to attend work in my EMU (UGG-like) boots, but only when it was snowing. I also wear a very bling-y ring on occasion and no one has batted an eyelid (other than to admire it).

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  • July 20, 2011

    naiadknight

    I work for a global engineering company. I’ve worn pretty much every shoe (barring tennis shoes and plain flip flops) I own and haven’t even gotten a bat of an eye. I tend to look over dressed when I show up in slacks and a button down, even before I put on my “Holy mother of god, it’s a freezer in here” blazer.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Nell

    My current job lets me wear what I like 🙂

    My previous job, was not so relaxed. There were ‘new’ rules popping up all the time – I wore a pair of smart, grey shorts with tights and cream heels on one occasion – the director of the company said how nice I looked (and that I looked like a model – bs, but nice to hear), but the new office manager didn’t like it, so a ‘new rule’ was implemented. It was like that all the time, someone would come in wearing leggings, which would have previously been fine, but the office manager would send out an email saying ‘leggings worn as tights are not office appropriate’ – or a lad would come in on the hottest day wearing shorts, and he’d get sent home (even though that office had no air con). By the way, the office manager didn’t abide by the no cleavage rule – her’s was excessive!

    The do’s and don’t’s were ridiculous. It was a design company, so I think they should have been more relaxed – clients expect it!

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    • July 21, 2011

      anna

      lol, I know it’s terrible, but before you even finished that comment I was going to ask “Is your manager a woman?” I wonder if she was just jealous everyone was better dressed than she was. And no leggings? Even in my exceptionally conservative school, where no nail polish, earrings or jewellery is allowed – leggings are still fine. Are people going to faint at the sight of your ankles?

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      • July 21, 2011

        Nell

        Yeah – I always put it down to jealousy. It wasn’t even as though we had many clients visiting us – we usually went to them, and would always dress appropriately for that!

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  • July 20, 2011

    Nikki G

    My office has a pretty loose dress code, for a corporate environment. We can wear capri pants, but not shorts. We can wear sandals as long as they are not flip flops or any type of beach sandal. No tank tops and no overly tight clothing. No cleavage, of course. No short skirts. We think of it as casual business casual. We still have some people that can’t seem to be bothered to follow the lax dress code, so they get sent home.

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  • July 20, 2011

    Zoe

    For me heels would be a no-no, but I’m a kindergarten teacher and stilettos aren’t exactly conducive to breaking fights up on the playground.

    I can’t imagine that anyone would be too fussed about a plain pair of heels. In fact, when I think of what a business woman should look like, my mental image is always completed with a pair of pointy toed black stilettos.

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  • August 2, 2011

    Rock Hyrax

    I’m surprised the survey was conducted by a UK website. (I’ve heard office dress codes are more conservative in places like the US, from where I’ve read advice such as not to wear pointed shoes to a job interview.) But unless things have changed drastically since I last worked in central London, half the female workforce must be breaking these rules.

    Re heels, as long as they’re not stripper shoes, and you don’t do that funny walk in them where you look like you’re permanently climbing a hill, I can’t see what the problem would be. In fact if they make the wearer’s height closer to their male counterparts (the physical height aspect, as Maxyne mentioned), they may help them be heard in discussions… :-/

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