In the news last week, and you might have seen it, there was quite a lot of time given to a woman who was sent home on her first day at a work for not wearing high heeled shoes. This got me thinking and there are a couple of things I would like to add to the discussion.
First of all, good for her.
I have never successfully worn a heels higher than an inch and, while having a huge amount of respect for those people who can balance at ridiculous heights, I have no intention of wearing anything higher than that. Not only do I fear breaking my neck or doing more serious injuries to my back, but also because (with the possible exception of a broken bra) high heels are the single most uncomfortable item of clothing I’ve ever tried to wear.
Secondly, what kind of company in this day and age still insists on heels over a smart pair of much more comfortable flat shoes?
The answer to that question is too many. I have seen the serious, long-lasting damage that was done to my grandma’s feet as a result of working and walking in tight-fitting high heels and it seems abusive to me. The fact that is still going on is appalling. For more contemporary evidence, see this Facebook post.
One of the things I am grateful for in my current job is the lack of dress code. Today for example I am wearing boots, leggings, a dress that is definitely more shabby than chic and my Bath Film Festival hoodie. And it’s comfortable. It is the same level of casual clothing that I wear at weekends. Admittedly, mine is not a public facing role, but there are definitely ways of being comfortable and smart at the same time.
The idea that one person is better at their job than another based on their appearance is archaic, but somehow still prevalent. Our Head of Sales always goes to meetings immaculately dressed and well presented because he knows that he is less likely to make a sale if he wears jeans and a t-shirt.
Although the cliche of the pasty man in an obscure Sci Fi t-shirt, jeans and glasses is (slowly) becoming a thing of the past, in tech there is an expectation that the work, rather than the person, be well presented. This kind of distinction is huge. I like this change of emphasis. It is definitely one way in which the tech community is ahead of a lot of the rest of the world.
I was speaking to a friend recently who told me that she had pretty much chosen jobs based on whether or not she was able to wear jeans to work. It surprised me when she said it, but thinking about it, it makes perfect sense.
I can honestly say that I have never applied for a job because it allowed me to wear jeans. However, it is also true that there are plenty of jobs I would never apply for due to, in part, the dress code. I cannot keep my nails nice, however hard I try. I am not good at applying make-up (my brother tried to teach me once, but gave up when I stabbed myself in the eye with eyeliner and blamed him for it).
And I will never be able to work in heels.