Until the summer of 2002, I thought wearing open-toed shoes was fashion forward. Now I know its a corporate taboo.
I had no idea that by baring my toes, I was sending messages I might not want to send. I was not aware that wearing open-toed shoes to work was tantamount to flying the wrong flag.
A friend, who’s a banking industry consultant, was the first to inform me she would never wear open-toed shoes on a client call.
“ Why not?” I asked naively.
“Well,” she started, trying to be diplomatic, “the banking industry is conservative. The women all wear pumps.”
It reminded me of when I was 11 years old and living in a small town in Appalachia. We were “imported Yankees,” and often not aware of local custom. Being unaware, my family thought it was perfectly fine for me to walk home from school.
But, I found out differently. One day I asked my friend Beth to join me. She asked her mother, who firmly said, “No. Ladies don’t walk.”
My friend Janie works for a private college with a written policy forbidding open-toed shoes unless you are wearing pantyhose or socks. Now that’s a fashion statement.
Just this week, Target Corporation announced it was initiating a 20 page dress code for all employees it includes such details as where open-toed shoes can be worn.
Now, if you go into any shoe department in any department store, chances are you are going to find a lot of open-toed shoes. Somehow, shoe designers must not be aware nor care that in corporate America, open -toed shoes can be “distracting.” Some say the taboo is based on grooming concerns, but others say the problem is open-toed shoes make a woman’s foot look sexy. That's right. Women who wear open-toed shows are telling the world they think " I'm too sexy for myself."
How serious is the open-toed shoe controversy? Well, even Victoria’s Secret’s dress code forbids open-toed shoes in their retail stores.
For emphasis let me repeat. Even Victoria’s Secret forbids open-toed shoes. Yes, the company that is now promoting pink bras and panties with attitude, daring, darling and all about fun forbids employees in their stores to bare their pink pedicures.
What am I missing here?
I've really been struggling with this. I just don't understand the problem with toes. I understand not allowing pants that show cracks when people bend over, I understand not allowing camisoles and I even understand not allowing blue jeans.
However, I really didn't understand the open-toed shoe issue until I read a
passage in Nuala O’Faolain’s best-selling novel, My Dream of You . The main character, Kate, explains why she loves pedicures. According to Kate, painted toes signal how feminine a girl is, deep down, even if she doesn't make any other show of it. In other words even when she's in a Talbot Navy Blue Suit with matching navy pumps.
Finally, I have a theory. The open-toe controversy isn’t about grooming. Or being sexy. It’s about femininity. Corporate America prefers women in pumps because Corporate America still prefers to deal with women who choose not to show how feminine they are…deep down.
Image Credit: Flickr member Hakimonooohi. Image added August 2007.
Question: Is the open-shoed controversy simply American-centric or is this a world-wide phenomenon? let me know!