to the Wizard of Oz
to The Devil Wears Prada
, shoes have been front and centre of enough stories to underscore a point: the right pair can sometimes change your life! Before you roll your eyes, here’s some food for thought: A 2012 study from the University of Kansas found that people are able to accurately judge 90% of a stranger’s personality, including their emotional stability, simply by looking at their most-worn pair of shoes. Now, whether you agree with the study authors or not, this much is true; employers and will notice your shoes, so let’s talk about how to get your kicks to kick you up the ladder and keep you on top.
The job applicant
The goal here, no matter where you’re aiming to work, is to present an image of yourself as practical, efficient and professional. You want to be presentable, but not come off as too high-maintenance because that can actually hurt your salary negotiation process.
For the women: A closed shoe with a modest heel is preferred. Even if you’re a flats kinda girl, you want just a little height for this one day. But not too high - unless you’re a leggy model auditioning for a spot on a fashion shoot, leave those sky-high stilettos back in your closet. Also, choose a nice neutral colour and simple design. Neon shades and sparkles aren’t suitable interview shoes.Unlike in the west, where open-toed shoes are frowned on, you can get away with a strappy mid-sized heel, but if you’re going to be showing your feet, do get a pedicure done. Even if you nail the shoe, if you display your bunions and toe fungus, you might put your employer off hiring you (and probably off their lunch as well). Similarly, don’t opt for jingly foot jewellery and crazy nail art, because that might distract your interviewer from that excellent point you just made about your previous work experience.
For the men: A polished and buffed pair of oxfords or lace-ups are your best bet. Stick to subtly patterned socks that match either your pants or your shirt. Save the white socks for the gym, and those crazy colourful socks for the celebration after you get the job. We know Dhaka’s streets are a nightmare and not everyone has the luxury of getting to the interview in a car. Keep some paper napkins handy to at least pat your shoes clean before you walk into the interview room. Scuffy footwear that’s falling apart will signal to your employer that since you can’t even be bothered with your grooming, you can’t possibly want the job badly enough.
On the flipside - and this is a classic rookie mistake - leave those pointed toe dress shoes at home. Those are for your formal do’s, and not the office room.
This is where you want to show off your efficiency and your ability to gel with the team. In most cases, this position will have you on your feet a lot. (Remember, if they stick you behind a computer and forget you, unless you’re interning at a call centre, you’re doing something wrong. Or not doing something right).
For women: Once you’ve got the internship, you want something that allows you to walk comfortably. Cute ballet flats, chic loafers, strappy sandals, are all acceptable footwear. Just don’t get too comfortable and turn up in your “ghorer chappals”. Again, avoid the jingly baubles; those are super annoying. Also, avoid the high heels. If the job requires a lot of walking, those are not the shoes you want to wear.
For men: Strappy sandal shoes, loafers, and oxfords are great options. Just like the women, resist the temptation to bust out the flip-flops. And white socks still belong only in the gym. While sneakers might seem like a great, comfy option, don’t wear them to work if you’re interning; they subtly signal that you’re not mature enough to sit at the big boys’ table.
The mid-level employee
This is sort of the sweet spot, shoe-wise, because now that you have your foot in the door and a seat at the table, so to speak, you can afford to be more versatile and express yourself.
Ladies: Of course it varies with the industry. If you’re working at a place like a bank or a hotel, they may have a stipulation in the kind of shoes you wear, but you can always experiment with the texture. Try a nice patent leather finish, for a change, or experiment with slingbacks and d’orsay heels. Corporate environments are a lot more relaxed now, so there’s a lot more versatility there, and a lot of leeway is given to footwear, but here’s an insider tip; leave the fancy Louboutins at home. You don’t want to start speculation about your salary to cause your boss to feel pressured to pass you over for a promotion or raise just to keep the peace.
Gentlemen: Again, you can enjoy a lot more leeway at this level, depending on the industry you’re at. If you’re in the service industry, however, even if it’s common practice at your workplace, once you’re done with your prayers, please roll down your pants and change back from your wudu flip-flops to your office shoes. Your inability to do so will signal to your clientele a lack of efficiency on your part.
Congratulations. You’ve made it to the head of the table. Now you don’t have to impress anyone and can wear whatever you want, right? Wrong. When you’re at the top, everyone’s looking at you, and it’s on you to set the tone at the workplace. Lauren Weisberger made a best-selling book out of her bad boss’ footwear, so people do notice.
You want your shoes to be as smart, practical and polished as your dream employee. If you’re scruffy and unkempt, you’ll find it harder to convince your subordinates to stick to a dress code. And if you’re showing off shoes that cost more than what some of your workers make in a month, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be resentment. So think carefully before you slip your feet into the kicks.
Unless you’re the head of a startup that’s mostly online and requires minimal face-to-face interaction. In that case, good luck, have fun, and more power to you.