It probably comes as no surprise that high heels sales plummeted in 2020 – due to national lockdowns and the move to hybrid working, women ditched heels for more comfortable footwear. In fact, the footwear retailer Shoe Zone reported a 285% increase in the sales of slippers.
This begs the question – how important are high heels in the workplace and are they still a symbol of professionalism?
Let’s dive into High Heels vs Flats!
The Myth of the Professional Woman
In 2016, 72% of American women reported wearing high heels at work. Given the decades of stiletto advertisements and advice books on how to command more respect with heels, this isn’t entirely shocking. What’s more, heels do have the effect of making you look taller and slimmer, which many women find empowering.
However, despite the high number of workplaces that still demand women to wear heels as part of their policy, a recent study has found that women who wear flats at work are deemed more capable and better prepared than those in high heels.
We just can’t win, can we?
Luckily, there is a way out. It lies in reconfiguring your wardrobe to suit your needs without losing that special touch of professionalism. While high heels sales have gone back up since 2021, so have the sales of trainers, as well as sustainable footwear.
More and more women choose to look stylish at work on their own terms, and we love to see it. So, what shoes to wear to the office?
How to Achieve a Professional Look Without Heels
Whether you’re working from home or are back at the office, it’s completely possible to look smart and elegant without that two-inch elevation.
Enter… business casual! This look is all about mixing some aspects of the formal business look (e.g., a fitted blazer or formal black trousers) with some casual pieces (e.g., a print detail top, a fitted jersey or an edgy, vintage tee).
As for shoes, pointy-toe flats signal you mean business and ballet flats give you a chic, classic look. For an updated take on the ballet flat, consider a square-toe style in a warm metallic such as gold or rose gold to add a stylish, contrasted edge to your look. Simple ankle boots in a neutral shade, (depending on which colours really suit your skin tone), are also a smart and effortless go-to once the summer’s over – easy to team with midi skirts and cropped trousers.
Next, think about what style expresses the real you. For instance, some women prefer clothes that have a more loose, oversized aesthetic that can fit within the business category and go well with trainers. For instance, the relaxed co-ord trouser suit or signature, oversized blazer. If this is your go-to style, do consider how these oversized pieces work for you and your body shape. Do you feel at your most confident whilst wearing them? Do they flatter your silhouette or do they add volume to areas you’d prefer them not to?
Suits and blazers aren’t your only option, of course, especially if you’re working from home.
Blouses with classic lines or flattering necklines, teamed with smart trousers command attention and power thanks to their classic look. Also, when you wear a blouse with an impactful design, you’ve got yourself an incredible statement piece that compliments you perfectly on camera and translates incredibly well on virtual calls and meetings: With statement pieces such as this, I prefer to style the rest of the look with pieces that will enhance the overall look and not overshadow the upper half. Consider investing in a pair of smart flats in a staple colour such as black, so that you can easily add them to any business casual look or wear them to elevate any off-duty casual ensemble.
Let’s not forget dresses or cropped trouser styles, which can be worn with flats, emitting a feminine vibe while keeping you comfortable and practical for long business days or commutes: Consider a woven style flat, that’s great for warmer temperatures, that can be worn effortlessly with such outfits, and are perfect for taking you from work to weekend with ease.
Your working from home style may differ from what you wear into the office, but whichever outfit you choose, make sure your clothes feel empowering and authentic, not merely professional.
So, is it still okay to wear heels in the workplace?
Absolutely! Many women wear heels to work and many don’t, and both cases should be viewed as perfectly normal.
And remember – while your attire does shape how you come across to other working professionals, it is primarily your behaviour that counts. Your clothes should simply reflect who you are beneath.
If you’re struggling to create a style that makes you feel great, don’t hesitate to get in touch. As a personal stylist in London, I offer both in-person and virtual styling services. Together, let’s take your wardrobe to the next level.