Open Thread

by epi on September 27, 2012

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura September 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

Good morning, friends,
I was curious about what you all think about office appropriate shoes for women, or if you even feel there is such a rule.
Personally, I view shoes rather like a man’s flashy tie, or a woman’s interesting scarf in that as long as the rest of the outfit is office appropriate (modest-length skirts/slacks and nothing sheer), then a fun pair of heels adds a bit of flare. Friends in different other offices have said that platforms and fuchsia stilettos should be relegated to the club scene. Bosses in my department don’t care what shoes, scarves or ties employees wear, and there are certainly no rules about it here at the university.
What do you think?

Reply

Chocobo September 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

For me it depends upon the outfit, time of year, and the workplace standards.

I agree that an interesting shoe is much like an interesting tie or scarf, but sometimes those scarves and ties are also inappropriate. A distracting tie is not what one should be wearing at a business meeting, and I admit I might question whether my lawyer really knew what he was doing if he was always wearing “funny ties” with Dagwood or Scooby Doo on them. But in other offices or situations, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

It is partially the same with shoes. It is just not good business sense to wear hot pink shoes, even if they are fabulous, because the client or whomever will be focusing on your appearance rather than on your abilities. In the summer you might get away with a peep-toe. As for sandals, I see them the same as men’s shoes: if you are working in an office where men can wear sandals, then women can wear them too. If the men are wearing closed shoes all summer long, then stay away from sandals or shoes that show a lot of skin.

Then again, being a woman does allow for a bit more style flexibility overall. Women can wear interesting skirts, dresses, pants, printed blouses, jackets, and jewelry where men are stuck with a few varieties of suits or slacks and ties and a watch. So a little flexibility in the shoe department as well seems sensible. But really, it will highly depend upon the work environment. I have worked in areas where jeans and sneakers were acceptable, which I hated, and others where pantyhose were required for women, which I also hated.

Full disclosure: my closet is full of interesting (if mostly closed-toed) shoes.

Reply

Just Laura September 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Offices where I have worked (in FL, NJ and OK) have tended to lean toward casual, including jeans and t-shirts on Friday unless an important meeting is scheduled. I tend to dress nicer than most people around me simply because I dislike wearing t-shirts to work (I’m mistaken for a student) and I really dislike wearing flip-flops to work (which is common here during the summer). As a result, I wear suits/nice slacks & blouses with a variety of unusual shoes.
Again, I am enjoying the conversation.

Reply

Chocobo September 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Location is a good point, too. I hadn’t considered that in my initial post. I have heard that it is acceptable for men in the south go without socks during the summer, even dressed in a suit. And generally women are no longer required to wear pantyhose in the hot temperatures anywhere, so long as they can get away with it — thank heavens.

Right now I live up in more northern climes where open-toed shoes or sandals are not just inappropriate (again, depending on the environment), they are completely out of place during certain seasons. It simply looks odd to see women in open shoes in the autumn, winter, and early spring. And flip flops! I wish they would go back to the beach and the pool, and let the other open shoe designs have a go during the hot seasons for a change.

It sounds like in your case your attire is perfectly appropriate. It’s not fair, but appearance does matter sometimes. In other situations I would definitely question someone’s professionalism or capabilities if they had strappy stilettos on while discussing, say, my blood test results. Just the other week I saw my (male) doctor and his rumpled clothing, combined with leaning against the counter tops with one foot up, did not inspire confidence.

Reply

Winifred Rosenburg September 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

According to EPI’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business, “The classic business pump has a 1- to 1 1/2-inch-high heel (and the wider, the more comfortable), but any becoming height can be appropriate depending on the workplace. Extreme spikes (3 inches or higher) and flat heels look the least professional. Shoe color is less of an issue than it once was, but the traditional business colors remain black, navy, chocolate brown, and taupe. (Note: Very inconspicuous trim details can be appropriate but might limit the number of outfits that go with the shoes.)”

On ties: “There are two schools of thought about ties: The first says that your tie is a way for you to express your individuality. The second says that defining your personality with your tie may make you feel good, but nobody else really cares; plus, some people find idiosyncratic ties unprofessional. (Though your coworkers get a kick out of your tie with the mermaid motif, some of your customers may not be amused.) One solution to this problem is to keep a “safe” tie in your office. Regardless of the design, make sure your tie color coordinates with your shirt and jacket.”

Reply

Nina September 27, 2012 at 10:10 am

Hi Just Laura,

In most places I’ve worked, a distinction has been made between “client facing” staff and “non-client-facing.” For those of us in the office, who see only the colleagues we always see and who know us well, something a little quirky or more casual than business standard is no big deal. For those in client situations, constantly making a first impression on new folks, the dress code is much narrower.

Which makes sense to me (in my green satin shoes). But I also work in a so-called creative industry, so things might not be the same elsewhere.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Alicia September 27, 2012 at 10:21 am

I believe that shoes are part of attire. Appropriate attire depends on function. In some jobs you must use shoes in terms of correct attire as things like steel toe shoes in construction , rubber soled shoes or closed toes shoes in labs and hospital environments, sometimes heels are fine but if need to walk or move a lot maybe not, strappy high heels are correct in some environments but not others.
So in my opinion it depends on a few factors.
1.Are the shoes correct for the amount and type of movement you are doing?
2. Is the style in keeping with the professional image you wish to present to your coworkers and clients?

Reply

Just Laura September 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

I absolutely agree that if non-skid soles are necessary to perform one’s job safely, then pin heels are completely inappropriate. But for the office, I figure steel-toed boots are unnecessary.

What about interesting shoes do you feel is unprofessional? I have never thought a man with a Calvin&Hobbes tie appeared unprofessional, which I equate with unique shoes, but perhaps some people do believe this? I really appreciate the opinions so far.

Reply

Alicia September 27, 2012 at 11:01 am

I did not say they are unprofessional. It depends on the profession. Just like a comic tie is appropriate in some professions and not in others. ( I would have no problem with a graphic design person wearing one but a lot if this was a lawyer for reading a will) Shoes are the same way they need to match the actions and profession. Some high fashion heels may be fine in a creative profession where one is trying to show a unique quirky creative aspect but not in a professional setting where conservative attire is needed. It depends on the job. If you work at Vogue and if you work at small town small business accounting firm you dress differently and both are professional setting. I think the best advice is look to your boss and your coworkers and to your industry. It varies what is professionally appropriate.

p.s. I have a pair of sperry topsiders on at the moment as that is my work environment.

Reply

Jody September 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I agree that it depends on the profession, but even within a profession there are varying circumstances. I work for a major DC law firm — in cases where there are no client meetings or court presentations a Calvin & Hobbes tie would fit in quite well (sorry Jerry, you’re way off-base here). Where attorneys or staff have client meetings or court/agency filings, they dress according to the situation. My father was an undertaker; when they didn’t have funerals or wakes they wore dark suits; sometime their ties had muted colors (no cartoon characters though). All the staff at his funeral home kept black suits/ties/shoes so that they could change as situations warranted.

Weather has something to do with it as well. I wear closed-toed heels because that’s my preference, and they work in all weather/scenarios. Other women will wear nice sandals in warm weather and closed-toed shoes in colder/inclement weather.

Reply

Jerry September 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Jody: I was an attorney (not just a paralegal) at BigLaw in Chicago for 6.5 years. At times where there are no client meetings or court appearances (and how often do these happen now a days?), the attorneys are not wearing ties. And when the attorneys are wearing ties, they are not Calvin & Hobbes ties or other silliness.

Please consider yourself to be trumped.

Jerry September 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I assure you that a man wearing a Calvin & Hobbes tie — unless he’s working at a TGI Fridays — is unprofessional, despite the fact that Calvin & Hobbes is the greatest comic ever written.

Reply

Just Laura September 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hmm, and here I thought that a C&H tie would lend more credibility to the gentleman in question, for precisely the reason you’ve given.

Reply

Jerry September 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

:-)

Chocobo September 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I agree on both counts.

Reply

Clara September 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm

All this talk of silly ties reminds me of my 10th grade Chemistry teacher (circa late 1990s). He used to wear ties with designs that represented a Beatles song and it was always the “Bonus” question on our exams. Some of them were really hard! It wasn’t fair to those who weren’t familiar with the Beatles catalog, but I always did well b/c I am a big fan. That’s just a fun little story I thought I would add to the mix.

Reply

Krista September 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Needing suggestions for an appropriate wedding gift for a couple who is
having a small ceremony followed by beer/wine/cupcakes (all homemade.) This non-traditional wedding (2nd marriage for both) will involve a full blown wedding dress, 1st dance, etc., just not a sit down meal (or even hors d’oeuvres). In your opinion, would it be inappropriate to offer to bring a dish of sorts?

Reply

Elizabeth September 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Krista, it sounds like the couple is having a lovely low-key affair. I would not offer to bring a dish to pass. You run the risk of communicating your disapproval that the party does not include enough food for your liking. What the bride wears or whether she has a first dance is immaterial.

Instead, I would encourage you to embrace the hospitality that you are being offered. Your wedding present should naturally be a reflection of your affection for the couple, but should also reflect the event. Personally, I would bring a bottle of wine, a jar of homemade jam or chutney, or some cool coasters that I picked up somewhere, etc. Something relatively inexpensive, perhaps homemade.

The good news is that this event will not take up a whole day of your life. Enjoy the “cocktail” reception, and make late dinner reservations if you need an excuse to leave. If you don’t want to celebrate with this couple, you don’t have to – just RSVP with your regrets.

Reply

Alicia October 1, 2012 at 7:52 am

I both agree with Elizabeth in the low key and embrace the hospitality part and totally disagree on basing the gift on the formality and fanciness of the event. Always give a gift based on your own budget, closeness to the gift recipient , and affection for the couple. Do not give a less fancy gift simply because less fancy event. I would not go less expensive simply because they are having a more casual lower key wedding. It should be the same no matter if the reception is cheap or expensive it matters what the couple would like within the bounds of your budget and relationship.

Reply

Elizabeth October 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I would be curious to know the factors that do enter in to your calculus (and others as well) for determining how much or what kind of a gift to give.

For me, I would consider first and foremost my relationship to the couple, whether it’s a first or second marriage, and yes, the kind of celebration that they’re having. Most weddings I’ve ever attended have all been very similar: somewhat formal ceremony followed by a plated dinner. In this way, I have not really had to consider the level of formality of the event. However, if I were invited to a cake and punch reception, or a beer and cupcake reception as it were, I don’t feel like it would make sense to give the same kind of gift. In some ways, I think the reception also has to do with the couple’s interests and inclinations – if they’re having a beer and cupcake reception, perhaps they would not appreciate fine crystal – it may not suit their lifestyle. Similarly, I might bring a very nice bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer to a dinner party depending on whether my host will be serving a 5-course spread or whether it’s a casual BBQ. I would also consider how generous the couple has been to us in the past. I have a pretty terrible memory, so I pretty much think of everyone as equally regularly generous, and I only remember people who were especially generous. So it’s not ever a “deduction” but rather I remember that I should give more generously to some.

I’m not suggestion that any of these should be “rules” for other people to follow. Gift giving is really personal, and everyone has some kind of personal calculus that they follow – and probably it has a lot do to with one’s finances at the moment as well.

Reply

Just Laura October 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm

These are my only calculations:
- How much money do I have to spend?
- How much do I like these people?

I would never give a gift based on the [perceived] cost of the wedding. My brother had a very fast wedding (engaged for about 48 hours) at his Navy base just before deployment. His bride wore her old prom dress, and my mother was the only family member who could make the long, last minute flight. There were maybe 15 people in attendance, with a store-bought cake. I still FedEx’d a matching four-piece name-brand set of luggage. Five years later, they’re still married. :)

Country Girl October 1, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Well said Laura. I personally would also add a third factor… what gift would be most meaningful and useful to the couple? I have received more thanks/appreciation/enthusiasm for a memory box with the couple’s photo that I had made online for $8 than I have giving $100 serveware. I think the often most overlooked aspect of gift giving is what will the recipient most enjoy/remember/use/love. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean a better gift, but more thoughtful typically does.

Ashleigh October 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Interestingly enough, I found a “wedding gift calculator” that has a ton of factors (your income, relation, season, etc) added in that gives you an estimate of how much you “should” spend: http://www.theweddingenvelope.com/calculator.php

Elizabeth October 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Wow, I would love to know how the calculator weighs all of those factors.

Krista October 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thanks for the suggestions- unfortunately, they would be offended at a bottle of wine since they are providing their own homemade wine and beer for the cocktail hour. The Bride to be has already told guests she will accept any donations for cupcakes….my concern is people drinking and not having substantial food to keep them from becoming intoxicated/driving. The homemade beers/wines are VERY high in alcohol. Not trying to be snippy here, but my brother and his fiance are pretty much “know it alls” and was looking for help to avoid uncomfortable situations. It’s a tight timeframe- most of us attending work until 5, then have to dress/drive for the 7 pm event. I think maybe I’ll just bring a PB&J with me! :0

Reply

Elizabeth October 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

How about some kind of “savory cupcake” then? Like a spinach, sun-dried tomato and feta “cupcake” (more like a muffin, no frosting, that uses a corn muffin base?)? If you want to include meat, maybe bacon bits?

It sounds like they are pretty committed to not having food, and unless you’re willing to gift them enough for many people, your one offering of potato salad or roast chicken or something would just call attention to the fact that they are not offering food. The savory cupcakes might slide in, though, by keeping with the theme.

Reply

krista October 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I LOVE the muffin idea! I think I will go that route, as well as trying to think up a creative gift idea. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and inspirating ideas.

Jody October 2, 2012 at 8:23 am

Sorry Jerry, you’re wrong yet again. I’ve been working for law firms for 30 years. Most days attorneys do wear sober ties; but on days like firm holiday parties, or “jeans day” (or similar expressly casual days) they DO wear silly ties. Gotcha!

Reply

Jerry October 2, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Jody: Perhaps your firm is business attire all the time. Most top law firms are not. In any case, let’s take a look at how you’ve contradicted yourself on the issue of silly tie as professional attire before we determine who is “wrong yet again”:

First, you stated that “in cases where there are no client meetings or court presentations a Calvin & Hobbes tie would fit in quite well,” in an attempt to contradict my claim that a Calvin & Hobbes tie is professional office wear. Then, after I pointed out that your status as a paralegal didn’t help you, you agreed that “[m]ost days attorneys do wear sober ties,” suggesting that a sober tie is, indeed, the professional choice. But then you attempt to justify yourself, suggesting that “on days like firm holiday parties, or ‘jeans day’ (or similar expressly casual days) they [presumably male attorneys] DO wear silly ties.” Not only is your sentence grammatically incorrect, but who wears a tie on a jeans day? And a holiday party as a professional occasion? Hardly!

Reply

Just Laura October 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

According to that calculator, I should have given my brother a lot less…

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: