A reader who works as a rehabilitation therapist was recently promoted (Get it, girl!) and sent me this message:
I have a challenging scenario. I’m a rehab therapist who’s on my feet all day treating patients, and I just got promoted to Rehab Manager. I’m the youngest manager and youngest-looking therapist. Our administrator wants his managers to look professional, but I can’t seem to find any article on how to wear sneakers to work, and wearing scrubs makes me look like I’m straight out of college even with a white lab coat.
As someone whose “day job” vacillates between spending hours in front of the computer one day and teaching a 4-hour class (read: on my feet) the next, I completely understand the need for comfortable footwear. And while sneakers may (at their very, very best) usually be worn only on “Casual Friday,” some professions require the support a sneaker provides every day.
In my twenties, I picked up what remains one of my favorite books: Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s A Guide to Elegance. Its author is clearly on my dear reader’s side here, as she admonishes to “never overly sacrifice comfort in the interests of chic, because shoes that are too tight or ill-fitting inevitably give you a tired and tortured look, which is hardly the impression an elegant woman wishes to create!”
Still, while it’s important to be comfortable, it’s also imperative that you not look like a track coach at work (unless you are indeed a track coach, in which case, carry on).
There are three ways to wear sneakers in a professional environment, and they all hinge on balance.
• Neutrals—Keep your shoe in a neutral color: black, navy, brown, grey, or white. You can then style the rest of your outfit in the same way you would any other professional outfit.
• Deep or Muted Colors—If the thought of wearing grey shoes every day makes you feel, well, a little grey, pick a pair in a deep shade of wine, olive, or plum, or in a muted shade of blue or pink. These colors can add a little personality to your outfit while still maintaining your status as an adult.
• Bright Colors—But Christina, you just said…. well, rules are made to be broken, right? If you can’t possibly live without that retina-searing neon orange pair, keep the rest of your outfit completely neutral (and preferably one color–may I suggest charcoal as a lovely foil to orange) so the shoes can be the star instead of competing for attention (let them do that on the track).
I cannot stress this enough–the rest of your outfit should be completely professional looking–no athletic attire (a good rule of thumb is to only wear one athletics-inspired piece of clothing at once, and in this case, that part is being played by your shoes).
Whatever strategy you choose, make sure your sneakers are clean and in good condition for the office (i.e., not the pair you mowed the lawn in last night).
And because God (or the devil? I’m still not sure which) is in the details, be sure to have your pants hemmed to the proper length, so that they are neither dragging on the ground nor high-waters. I like mine about 1/4 – 1/2 inch off the ground when standing.
For examples of some of my favorite office-appropriate kicks, follow Girl About Downtown on Pinterest and check out my board “Sneakers at the Office.”