You may not have heard about it, but there is a great “peep-toe” debate raging out there. Are peep-toe shoes (and, God forbid, open-toe footwear more generally) appropriate for the office? In the olden days, the answer was unequivocal: no. In the more conservative work environments today, that dictum hasn’t changed. For my first job out of school, I had to wear closed-toe shoes and pantyhose — every single day. I wasn’t thrilled by that rule, but I wasn’t particularly bothered either; I had not yet accumulated the shoe collection I have now, so I had no divided loyalties — no gorgeous patent leather peep-toe vying for their turn in the spotlight. [Need I add, that situation has now been rectified]. Luckily, I have since moved on to a place that’s a little more relaxed, dress code-wise. Most of my shoes continue to be of the closed-toe variety, but my few toe-revealing choices don’t seem to bother anyone. As far as I can tell, my colleagues appear to be doing the same.
In truth, I don’t really understand the brouhaha over toes. Personally, I don’t like feet, but the (partial) sight of them doesn’t offend or scandalize me. That they should be somehow verboten seems as archaic as … well, Victorians’ supposed obsession over ankles. [Which, as an aside, has been mostly debunked]. Feet are not even particularly distracting body parts — except for the occasional fetishist perhaps — and they are so, well, out of the way. They’re not in your face; they’re just minding their own business. Why must they be always caged?
Joking aside, this ‘debate’ brings up the greater issue of office dress codes. It wasn’t that long ago that news outlets were salivating over the story of the Citibank employee fired for dressing “too sexy” — a category which, in her case, reportedly encompassed turtlenecks and other seemingly innocuous attire. Perhaps there was more to that story than met the eye, but it does make one think about the politics of clothing. Where do the boundaries of one’s autonomy end and an employer’s sphere of control begin? What standards are to be enforced — of morality? good taste? style? — and who gets to decide what they are? It’s easy enough to say: no peep toe shoes. But it should be just as easy to give a cogent, rational “why” … otherwise, it might be time to rethink the rules.
Over to you: what do you think explains the furor over toes, and is it ever appropriate to reveal them at work?