Most of us living in a cubicle farm, office, or other desk job have had dress code issues to deal with. While some are simple rules, many others can be nit-picky and treat the clothing choices and the number ONE reason why you come to work!

The Number ONE dress code issue? Shoes!

More people get sent home over shoe rules than any other dress code rule. Many male bosses will not discuss cleavage as they do not want to be sexist. Most will not comment on too-short skirts unless it is blatant.

Employees would love to have their freedom of not being confined to closed shoes and socks or pantyhose for over 40 hours a week. Women have fought (and won) about refusing nylons since the mid 1990s. Soon after, jobs started allowing flat shoes. Some allowed backless and others allowed open toe.

However, some of these rules still apply:

  • No backless shoes, but open toe can be worn
  • Backless shoes ok, but no open toes
  • EITHER a backless or open toe shoe ok, but not both open at the same time.
  • Backless AND open toe may be worn – only WITH nylons
  • A certain amount of fabric is required to be over your foot. If there is a heel over 2 inches, more openness of the shoe is accepted
  • Then there is the ever-present debate of “sandals vs flip flops” that every office has.

In the 1980s & 1990s, Casual Friday gave way to tennis shoes. People would give anything to wear their Nikes to work all day. In today’s society, people would rather lose the shoes entirely. The less amount of fabric over someone’s foot is what people would prefer today. Commuter will wear flip flops now while getting to and from work, and putting on their “dress code approved” shoes on while at their desk (with those sometimes off under the desk as well.)

Others have even different dress code ideas. But the issue is that jobs treat shoes like the most fundamental and important part of the job.

There is exactly zero benefit to employers getting so worked up over shoes. While handling phones or on data entry duty, your shoes do not dictate the production, assist with a sale, or make someone type faster. A customer will never care if the back of the shoe is open, if employees are wearing nylons, or if they even went to go get their coffee completely barefoot.

Over the years, we have found some ways that we can somewhat try to survive day to day activities at our jobs. Most of us just cannot afford to quit our jobs and then find something with more freedom. Hopefully some of these tips will keep people gainfully employed while trying to have our health and freedom at work.

LONG PANTS: Not many jobs will lift up pants legs to see if your shoe is too open, or has a back. Let them come around and just stand up for them, knowing your pants touch the floor.

LOOK PROFESSIONAL – EVEN WITH OPEN SHOES: Go the extra mile with other parts of your wardrobe to make sure you “look professional”

DON’T MAKE IT OBVIOUS: Learn to pretty much stay around your work area and do not give management a reason to see you. Lollygagging with co-workers is a sure way to get the attention from the bosses

ALWAYS – SHOES OFF! It is common for desk workers to have their shoes off under their desk or around the work area. Many places will not have a problem working with your shoes kicked off. However, if you are wearing un-approved shoes, you will be reprimanded/suspended/fired. As a manager, I used to tell people to do this – since I refused to send people home over shoes. Some would take my advice. Others would laugh at me – then security is up an hour later to help with bringing a box as they were terminated for improper shoes. A boss might simply say “Put your shoes on” if you are seen without shoes on. With un-approved shoes, some managers will go all out to make it one of the worst days of your life.

KEEP A PAIR OF APPROVED DRESS CODE SHOES UNDER THE DESK: Just because they are approved for work does not mean that they have to physically on the whole shift! If someone sees you in unapproved shoes, simply tell them “The other shoes are at my desk. My feet hurt.” Some will allow it. Others will say to go sit down. If you show them the approved shoes, it is usually enough of a pass to not warrant any more conversation.

TOE RING SANDALS: Some jobs will not allow a strap to go between your toes. Sandals that have a ring around your big toe are considered not of these kind – and many can be quite dressy. Also, the lack of a full strap is even more open. If the manager STILL complains, when they walk over to check your shoes, simply put your big toe OVER the toe loop piece. When they see the other thin line over your foot, they will be happy to know you COMPLIED with their demands.

SOLELESS SANDALS: For those call centers that allow sandals ONLY with a back, a pair of bottomless sandals can do the trick! Many style look extremely dressy, and have a strap around your ankle for the dress code police! Just make sure you are not showing the boss the bottom of your feet. Provided your feet stay on the ground when the boss comes over, no one will ever know you are barefoot!

SOCKS? When all else fails, it is funny how a pair of black socks – even PEDS – can look professional. While wearing orange and green striped socks scream “Hey look at my feet”, a pair of black no-show socks have a similar cut to a pair of dressy flats. I have seen people who are tired of getting dress coded over shoes – simply put these on and walk around all day without people noticing!