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Ramsey: Flip-flops crowd search for proper office attire

It’s summer time and they’re back! Flip-flops.

Maybe they never went away. They simply went into hibernation for the winter. I suspect you know what I am talking about, but if not, they are those shoes that have nothing to hold them to your foot except a little piece of material across or between your toes. Flip-flops, slides or whatever you choose to call them, are the hottest trend in summer fashion footwear.

If you are wondering when the first shoe of this type appeared, I did a little research and discovered that sandals — which is frankly what we are referring to — came into existence around 2000 B.C. So for those of you who think this shoe is a 21st century creation, think again. The sandal began as a basic item made to protect the soles of the feet. The simple strap between the toes made it easy to wear. When this shoe resurfaced in modern times, it was still pretty much utilitarian footwear known as a beach shoe or shower shoe. That’s right, a shower shoe.

So, how did the shower shoe become the most popular footwear of the season? It’s hard to say. One of the morning television news shows recently did a feature story on flip-flops. Several of the reporters were actually touting this as the shoe to wear to work. One of the news anchors, a well-dressed man in a suit and tie, expressed his dismay at the thought of what he called “thongs” showing up at the office. I’m with him.

If you’re looking for shoes to wear to the office this summer and you feel that flip-flops are inappropriate, you may be in for a lengthy search, like a businesswoman friend of mine discovered. She began her hunt for a professional shoe online. Would you like to guess what popped up on every site when she looked for shoes under “career” or “flats”? Flip-flops.

Flip-flops ,or slides, come in every fabric and heel-height imaginable. Once an inexpensive plastic shoe with a flat sole, they are now available in a variety of man-made and natural materials, in low to high heels, in every color and design you can conceive of and with prices ranging from $5 to $500. (No, that’s not a typo.)

Flip-flops have become versatile, but once again, people are confusing the latest fashion with business attire. Flip-flops, and their sandal or slide cousins, are not business professional footwear. They are casual to the extreme. It is not simply a matter of appearance — whether these shoes look professional or not — it is also a matter of safety. You can easily trip when you catch your foot on something unexpected. Flip-flops are also a noise nuisance. The sound of shoes slapping around the office can be annoying.

Before you slip into your cool new slides for which you may have paid a small fortune, think about where you work. Are these shoes suitable for your work environment and type of business? Do they follow the dress code, if there is one?

Gwen DeWalt, owner of Four Seasons Travel, came up with a simple rule to help her staff decide if their sandals, slides or flip-flops were appropriate for the office. Her guideline is “if it is designed for or can be worn on the beach, it is not appropriate for the office.” I think she nailed it.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products.

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