I’d like to pick a bone with Pat Benatar. I’d argue that work is more of a battleground than love, and, as a result, more apt to require armor. Down to one’s toes. In my corporate heyday, loafers always served as the modern equivalent of a sabaton. Whenever I heard the distant rattling of sabres, I’d pull my black Ferragamos out of the closet and shoe myself for war.
I was therefore somewhat surprised at the comments to my previous post on What To Wear To Dinner After Work In Manhattan. It appears that others do not wave the loafer banner as enthusiastically as I.
I ask the Privilege[d] this question. Do you believe women must wear heels to indicate formality? Seems unfair, if so, and problematic. I for one do not stand so strongly on the ground, in heels. When a vivid imagination lifts one often off the ground, an extra inch of air under the soles supports neither productivity nor authority.
Perhaps this is my issue only? Perhaps heels give you courage? I welcome those stories.
In any case, I do not believe I am alone in flat shoe reliance. Witness Joyce Lau’s post on women CEOs of the world. Look at her analysis of how these women dress. Despite long-running currents of change, the pool at the top of the corporate power stream* is still populated mostly by boy fish. Boy fish wear boy clothes. Loafers seem a fairly easy adaptive behavior to concede, compared to childcare, compassionate discourse, and sports metaphors at sales meetings.
So suspend disbelief, just for the next couple of minutes, and let’s review a few loafer options.
How Corporate Women Can Wear Loafers with Style
The secret to wearing loafers with style is this: because they are a strongly-typed icon, meaning, they scream “Classic! Conservative! Toe-ing the line!” you always want to introduce a little tension. A little oxymoronic dissonance. For example.
1. If you work in traditional industry, and only own one pair of loafers, this should be it. Based on the men’s shoe Platonic ideal, but with rounded shape, a soft texture, and tied bow detail. This is the simplest of tensions – a loafer that is both clearly for women and obviously menswear-based.
2. Other options? Although this might surprise you, don’t go any higher up the menswear chain. This brown Barga below is for Sturdy Gals taking a day in town with their corduroy slacks and quilted vest. Or for Artsy Cousins, ironically, with a vintage skirt or skinny jeans. Blocky, traditional, luxurious. Not for the office. No tension in that choice.
But loafers galore are out there, on beyond black, on beyond suit shodding.
3. Behold a navy pair to wear for casual Friday with jeans. Bring a little Dean Martin panache to your product meetins. Navy plus crocodile = preppy Italian. The engineers won’t quite know what to say. The web designer will become your new best friend.
4. Or consider celadon suede. I once had a suit just this color, and could never find the right shoes for it. Sometimes matching is the right strategy. The choice of celadon goes against common wisdom just enough that the most subversive shoe choice is to echo. Reinforce your strategy, as it were.
5. Orange suede, worn with navy blue trousers and a white blouse. My daughter has a similar pair we bought when she first started working. Here it’s the colors, orange and navy, that introduce tension. Just don’t wear these with black. But you wouldn’t do that. I know you wouldn’t..
6. Finally, taupe, on sale, if you are a size 10. These should be worn with jeans. Or, if you’re in a creative field, head-to-toe-taupe, and fur, to take you all the way to Versace-land. You are playing with the shoes’ suburban iconography. Play to win.
What to wear in the corporate world is a battle won or lost in the details. It helps to know where you plan to take your stand, and in whose shoes.
Note: I’m mixing metaphors here. Are we fishing or are we fighting? Testosterone does that to me. I apologize. At least I avoided talk of stadiums.
Images all via Beren Shoes