Enough with the flip-flops at the office

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“Mommy,” said my daughter as she inspected my bare feet the other day. “Why are your feet cracked?”

They’re more than cracked. The appendages at the bottoms of my legs are—how to put it delicately?—hideous. My toes are spidery. My pinkies are misshapen from a misguided youth spent jamming them into stupid stilts. Currently my pregnant ankles trump Hillary Clinton’s. God bless the senator, but she wears pants suits for a reason.

So when my colleague Andrea Sachs and our editor, Bill Saporito, included me on an e-mail exchange about flip-flops at the office, I felt I had to weigh in. Here’s my article in the TIME that hits newsstands today: “How (Not) to Dress at the Office.” In it I quote one worker’s observation:

“I call it the three D’s: distracting, disgusting and–although it’ll betray my age–disrespectful,” says Eileen McAvoy Boylen, 54, a Boston-area marketing executive, of the way young workers dress.

But to be honest, I think the battle is already lost. A generation of college grads raised on Sex and the City is heading into the workplace this summer, convinced we all wear camisoles and tottering heels to client meetings (WSJ.com on that topic here).

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I look like this at work. Don’t you? / NEW LINE CINEMAS

So although I myself draw the line at flip-flops, I do so only out of respect for my colleagues—no one should have to work with my toes in their line of vision—not out of some carefully wrought philosophy on appropriate dress code.

Take stockings. Barbara Pachter, the $6,000-a-day business etiquette coach I interviewed for my story, insists upon them. “If men have to wear socks, I have to wear nylons,” she told me. I disagree. As far as I’m concerned, nylons are a cruel, thoroughly antiquated article of clothing best relegated to costume museums next to corsets and wigs. I don’t own a pair, and probably never will again.

What I mean is that we’re all responsible for our own personal dress codes now. I happen to be in a line of work that accepts flip-flops at the office, but I choose not to wear them because my feet are gross. Then again, I also refuse to wear pantyhose, which certain etiquette coaches might find objectionable. Tell me: where do you draw the line?

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