Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Presidential Flop

One day while walking with my boss into another department in the company he whispers to me, “I hate that”. I knew in that instance exactly what he was referring to. There, a woman in the office wearing flip-flops - and not even fancy, dressy sandals with a heel. This was the rubber kind you wear to the beach. I very much appreciate the business casual approach, but I do not think beach casual is synonymous.

I am one of those people who truly believe that shoes say a lot about someone. Open shoes on women just seem too relaxed in some office environments for me. My issue is not just with flip-flops. I have always had a little inside jaw drop every time I see a professional woman wearing some kind of summery flip-flop, sandal-type shoe. In some places like the East, it is cultural and this is what women wear. I get that, and it is probably quite comfortable to them. I have even tried it myself with nice sandals years ago, but I got cold and just felt silly. I own shoes like this for evening, but they do not seem to work with my suits for work.

When I see a woman who is client facing, or making a boardroom type presentation and they are wearing sandals, it sends the wrong message. Will your audience take you seriously if you are giving a presentation with your cute sandals and well-manicured blue toes? If you work in a creative industry, then that would probably go over well. For a corporate, I am not so sure.

There is a time and place for sandals. But they should also be appropriate for what is worn. I saw some pictures from the Kentucky Derby this year. One image stuck in my head was of a woman in a nice dress, hat and thick black flip-flops. This is a shoe that I am sure would work well with jeans, but in this case they drew more attention than the huge hat on this woman’s head.

I was reminded of my deep aversion to this very popular look last week when reading the newspaper. There, in an almost half-page sized image is Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Representative, formally announcing her campaign for the US Republican presidential nomination. She is wearing a nicely tailored dress and matching jacket, and what?! Yes my friends a pair of floppy sandals. Now some might say they are dressy because they have a small heel on them. I just do not find them presidential. While I would probably not agree with a lot of Bachmann’s politics anyway, her shoes motivate me to avoid learning more about her and her platform. How can I take her seriously? For one of the most powerful positions in the world, one needs powerful shoes.

International Herald Tribune, 28 June 2011

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