Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Work Quirks: Shoes and Hair

In my job at "Large Consulting Firm" we have a strict business casual dress code (at our firm this means button-ups or cardigans, professional skirts or trousers, no strappy shoes, and no denim).

But there are two other things that aren't in the dress code that I won't (or should I say, very rarely) do at work in terms of attire.

Flats.

And ponytails.

Yep you can call me crazy. You can try to convince me of the benefits of these fashion choices (time! comfort!). But it's a rare day in the office that you'll catch me in flats or a ponytail.

Why no flats?

Personally, I feel dumpy and unprofessional in flat. Maybe it's because I work in a male-dominated field, or maybe it's just a personal quirk, but I have a deep seeded belief that this:


Looks a lot more "put together" with a business outfit than this:


Last week since my toe was hurt I wore flats to the office all week. It was my first time wearing flats to work almost two years. I felt so short (even though I am 5'8") and sloppy. And I felt like my presence is the room was less commanding.

Outside of work, I'll wear flats and sandals all day long. But in the office it's 100% pumps for me.

So, why no ponytails?

I think this one is more about how my hair looks in a ponytail than how people's hair looks in a ponytail in general.

I'd love my hair to look like this when I wear it in a ponytail:



But on me it just doesn't work in an office setting. I think it makes me look young and sloppy. Plus my hair gets little flyaways part way through the day that makes the ponytail look disheveled. I wear my hair in a ponytail to work less than five days a year. I just think my hair looks it's best and most professional when it's down or 1/2 up.

Note: When googling about these topics to see if I'm alone in my quirks, I found a fabulous working-woman fashion blog called Corporette. They've discussed both flats and ponytails at work and it seems that I am definitely not alone.

So I'm interested to hear what you other professional women think. Do you like to wear flats in a corporate environment? What about ponytails? Is there a right or wrong way to do either in a corporate setting?

44 comments:

Shannon said...

I don't do flats, but that's only because I look WIDE when wearing flats. Now, on the ponytails... I try not to wear them, but some days I have to due to the horrible humidity... excuses, I know! But, it's very rarely!

Sara said...

My hair is short so ponytails aren't an option for me. But, I agree about the flats. I think most women don't have their pants hemmed properly for flats and then they drag the ground and look sloppy. And, to me not much is worse than looking like your clothes just don't fit you.

ana said...

so i don't look wide (i'm quite thin) but i agree.. wearing flats makes me look very young and sloppy. i'm also 5'4" so you can imagine how young i look.. Its 100% pumps for me. even if its an inch and a half.

i also find that trimmer trousers. ie- skinny (not tight) make you look more commanding because they are tailored more like mens trousers. its all about tailoring for me. something new i've discovered.

what industry do you work in? i'm in engineering. i think that makes a difference

i like ur blog. mines a tad different.
www.thebookisaworld.blogspot.com

Classy Fab Sarah said...

I work retail so I don't have much of a say in this... but I so agree on the ponytail thing. I would love to look polished in a pony, but I have far too many flyaways! I always looks like a mess by the end of the day!

The Shabby Princess said...

My last job was more corporate and I rarely wore flats. I wore them when I was battling an injury or something (runner), but, rarely. I am always a ponytail gal, but, for me, I wear it low and side parted and straight, I think it looks professional that way, but, admit that my hair does look better when it's actaully REALLY styled. Ha! Now, at my new job, I wear flats a lot more, but, that's because it's a more casual work environment and I wear flats on my "off" time, so, it's also a money saver.

Vee said...

My dress code at work is not particularly stringent, but I do follow similar standards because I'm younger and want to make sure I look pulled together enough to convey authority (not over other people, just over my job - LOL). Looking pulled together says "I am capable!" I firmly believe that.

I typically only wear flats when I know I have a big day of photographing ahead (I'm in PR so I have a multitude of responsibilities) so will be on my feet all day. Usually I wear pumps or heeled boots (in the winter). I also have the flyaway problem in ponytails, so I never wear them. I look sloppy if my hair isn't down and flat-ironed.

moderndaywife said...

I never wear flats or a ponytail ni the office..makes me feel frumpy :-)

Dee Stephens said...

Our dress code is pretty strict but not as strict as if I worked in other parts of the company.
I can't wear pumps all the time. We do a lot of running around and they just aren't comfortable. But.. I do wear them the days I wear suits.
During the winter I wear dressy boots and in the summer I do tend to wear sandals but, again, that's not appropriate in any other part of this company.
Ponytail. I don't do it either but when my hair was long I found myself pulling it back a lot.

The Coach's Wife said...

I work for a large retail corporation and while I do wear flats (I'm 5'10" so wearing heels towers me over everyone and I spend all day looking down at people) I rarely do pony tails either. I have major fly-aways and pony tails never look chic or well done unless you are a celebrity (darn them, how DO they do that??) so I agree on the hair part!!

Mrs.Olson said...

I am 5'1", so it is really hard to look tall and in charge for job. Our dress code is business. When my hair was longer, I would do the pony tail..and it really only worked for me because my glasses kept the business look going. The flats worked for me if I had the perfect petite pants to line up with them. Plus I worked with teenagers volunteering..and even though I was eye level or shorter, the flats helped me seem like friend not a demanding boss..which helped. But I do feel taller and business appropriate when I am in my heels..even though it only makes me 5'2"

Meghan said...

I think it really depends on the office culture. I worked in a few offices where I sometimes wore dressy flats/wedges (with pants that were the right length). My office now is SUPER casual, and almost everyone wears jeans, so I definitely wear flats there. I wear flats even though I am pretty short- about 5'2! I usually wear my hair down but sometimes put it up at the end of the day in a low ponytail. I would love to hear what heels you like best- I have a hard time finding ones that are comfortable.

SarahRosemary said...

I ONLY wore flats at my job. I love the look of many ballet flats, so I wore them all the time. My feet would hurt so bad when I wore heals, so I never did. But, I hear you on the pony tail. My hair never looked sleak or stylish in a pony because I have too many fly aways.

the rigdons said...

I work for a church and wear jeans, flats and a ponytail 90% of the time! :) I've always thought it would be cool to work somewhere fancy and wear heels... but then I realized that will probably never happen for me.

Tiffany said...

I do flats now, but only because I work in a seriously casual office. When I was at a large company, I would have NEVER worn flats. I agree on the ponytail thing, especially with shorter hair. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I think if one can get their hair into a sleek glorious ponytail, go for it, but if not, plan on spending an extra 10 minute on hair in the morning!

You are definitely not alone. :)

Fabiola said...

I was thinking about this exact same thing this week.
As for the ponytail, I have short hair, so ponytail isn't an option for me. And I do look better with short hair.

As for the heels, when I am at my office base, I wear denin on Fridays or on some day that I am sure I don't have any meetings. When at some client's office, I am all formal atire.
But I always wear heels. I'm 5'3", so flats don't look great, only on weekends ; )

Keri said...

I work in a construction office and wear steel toed boots to work everyday. Definetly also rock the pony tail sometimes and for some bad hair days, I throw it in pigtails or wear a baseball cap. And if i wore anything other than jeans they would look at me funny. I do still wear cute cardis and shirts though. I have to feel somewhat feminine :-D

The Former Miss said...

I completely agree with you about flats! I feel so short and inferior in them for whatever reason. BUT my co-workers are lucky if they see my hair down once a week!! I actually feel so much more professional and put together with my hair parted at the side and pulled back in a mid- to low-ponytail (ala Sandra above). I think it's partly because my hair is sooo long that I feel it looks flat and just blah by lunchtime! I've even been known to rock a low bun at times :)

Stacie Jean said...

First of all I heart Corporette, my office is business casual as well but I still make an effort everyday. I agree having my hair done and wearing heels not only makes me look more professional but put together as well. I think its important to appear that you have a care about your professional appearance to others.

Lo said...

I haven't worn anything but flip-flops, Chacos and rubber boots for the last two years. And the rainforest isn't particularly conducive to leaving your hair down, what with the humidity and all. I tried to flat iron my hair once - it went frizzy in less time than it took to flatten.

Can't wait to raid your closet! Love you!

Hillary said...

Well I'm a teacher so I DO wear flats to work most days (it's hard to chase those buggers in heels!) but I wouldn't wear them in a more professional setting. A few years ago, before a job interview, I read on a few websites that you should never wear heels to a job interview (I don't remember the reason anymore) so I wore flats to my interview. I felt SO unprofessional the whole time and vowed to NEVER listen to that advice again!

Also-- ponytails are just never cute on me. I have uber thick hair so my ponytails sort of fan out and look triangular. It's not a pretty site.

Newlyweds on a Budget said...

I always wore heels and did my hair and makeup for the exact same reason you described--men.

it wasn't that i was trying to impress them, it was that i was trying to hold my own. and i agree, ponytails don't look sexy on me, they look like i didn't feel like doing my hair.
HOWEVER--started a new job in december and its ALL women in my department, they all wear flats and ponytails. So now I do too and don't feel guilty. it's heaven.

Jess said...

My office is a mish-mash (radio station). Our Sales people have to wear business. Our office staff have to wear business casual. Our DJs can wear pretty much anything.

I'm a combo of all three. I go for business casual 3-4 days a week. On Fridays or event days, I'm a jeans girl. If I have a meeting with a client, I'm more business.

99% of the time, I'm in flats. I just do too much running around my building.... lifting, carrying, organizing, etc, to do heels all the time. For my hair, it's usually down and flat-ironed. On occasion, I'll throw it up in a ponytail with a headband.

Eileen said...

interesting! I always thought it was considered more professional to wear your hair pulled back rather than down and loose. Though I think high ponytails are kind of cheerleader-ish. In general I thought the most professional style was considered to be side parted in a low ponytail/ bun, or half up/ half down, since these look sleeker than leaving hair down. I have thick long hair that's somewhere between wavy and curly, and my preference is to leave it down, even though it's a bit crazy looking. I sort of thought this was a faux pas for interviews (because it looks a lot less polished) but I ignored those concerns and left it down anyway :)

I used to prefer wearing pumps because they look more flattering than flats (and I'm only 5'2") but after I took up long distance running, my feet couldn't handle heels every day. So now I wear pretty flats. But I work with 98% males who could not care less about what I look like (they show up in jeans/t shirts/ tennis shoes) - that's engineering for you :)

{Louisiana.Bride} said...

I teach, so I am up and down to much to do heels. I did wear them once last year for a parent night and ended up wandering around in the flip flops I hide in my desk because I was in so much pain. This year they changed our dress code and we can wear cute sandals if we want. Needless to say I wear Toms and sandals constantly. As for the hair, when it was longer and I had duty I would put it in a bun, now that it is short I only put it in a pony tail if I am looking messy after outside recess...and I add a cute headband to make it look less sloppy. My typical day involves khakis, button down shirt, and Toms.

{Louisiana.Bride} said...

I teach, so I am up and down to much to do heels. I did wear them once last year for a parent night and ended up wandering around in the flip flops I hide in my desk because I was in so much pain. This year they changed our dress code and we can wear cute sandals if we want. Needless to say I wear Toms and sandals constantly. As for the hair, when it was longer and I had duty I would put it in a bun, now that it is short I only put it in a pony tail if I am looking messy after outside recess...and I add a cute headband to make it look less sloppy. My typical day involves khakis, button down shirt, and Toms.

Miss Sweet Tea said...

I have a very casual work environment and we have to be business casual maybe 2 weeks out of the year. When I'm dressing BC I always wear heels because I feel more put together. I do wear ponytails to work because I have really thick hair that looks okay pulled up.

Mrs. Smith said...

My office is a little more casual than most, so flats are almost the norm for women here. I mix it up.

And as for ponytails - I usually don't only because I don't wash my hair every day and the crease is just hard to get out. It has absolutely nothing to do with work. :)

Anna said...

I work in a male dominated field, too. I always have trouble with business casual. If I have meetings, I always wear heals. No exception. If I'm in the office and I know I won't be seeing anyone, I'll wear flats, especially this time of year.

I'm already stressing about my attire for tomorrow though. I have a presentation for a county's leadership class on economic development (my field) that's being held in a food processing plant. I've been asked to wear jeans and as I do these things all the time in suits, it's a bit of "what?!? Jeans? Are you sure?!?"

I rarely wear pony tails at work because I think it makes me look younger (I'm 24).

Thanks for the link to Corporette!

Sarah @ The Strength of Faith said...

I refuse to wear flats to work. At 5'5 I'm not terribly short, but I'm a minister. People expect me to be a tall middle aged man - at least I can be tall, right? I also think that I stand straighter with much more confidence in heels

the BLAH BLAH BLAHger said...

I typically wear heels, but have a few suits that look best with flats. When I wear the flats, I ALWAYS make sure to accessorise a little more aggressively. I feel more feminine and professional. And I have started wearing a ponytail (a la Charlotte) to work. The slicked back hair around the face always makes me feel more kickass. : )

Puttin' On The GRITS said...

I 100% agree with you on the flats. In the 4 years that I have been in medical sales I have never worn flats. I also have a huge issue when people don't buy pants long enough and you can see 3" of their heel out of the bottom of their pant leg. And wearing strappy prom shoes is a huge no-no.
I also am not a huge fan of making these crazy "experimental outfits". There is a time to be fun with your clothing and I don't really think the office is the place to try out some funky trend. That doesn't mean you can't wear fun jewelry or a printed top, etc...I think you know what I mean.
I do, however, wear my hair pulled back sometimes. I have a short bob so in the Florida humidity it gets a little frizzy sometimes. I will just pull it back in a low ponytail rather than slicking my hair back in a high one.
I was actually just thinking about writing a blog post about how to dress professionally. You beat me to it!

L A C E Y said...

i have a corporate job, too - business casual, demin OK on Fridays, jacket if you have important meeting. BUT, we also manufacture medical devices and ship out of our locations, so since on most days i'm running out to the production floor or the warehouse, i'll wear flats (like once a week). i do agree though, that i feel much different about my command and presence when i'm wearing flats. for my hair, i wear it down 90% of the time, but if i do wear it up, it's usually in a tight bun, so still professional, i think.

great conversation starter... i loved reading everyone else's comments :)

Jessica @ Acting Adult said...

I have a business casual environment but jeans on Friday is encouraged. I sometimes end up in them on other days too, if I'm doing a lot of event schlepping or whatever.

But I almost always wear flat for event days. I'm on my feet all day, running around, putting out fires, going up and downstairs and generally being a crazy person. Heels would just add insult to injury.

On the subject of ponytails, however, I completely agree. There's no place for them in the work place, in my opinion.

Jane said...

I completely agree! Back in le old consulting pre doctoring days, I never wore flats. However, today heels and scrubs don't really look so cute together. :) Fortunately, I have decent ponytail hair which helps because sometimes it gets super staticky and the only fix is a ponytail!

my gentle impulsion said...

I do not wear ponytails because I don't like how it looks on my head but I wear my "Heidi" hairstyle very often. It is strange but I think that I look much fresher with this style. ;)

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

In my current job they require all women to wear their hair up in a ponytail or off of your collar. It can only be two inches below the collar so I'm forced into a ponytail every.single.day! I hate that!

I love flats but not for work!

Leah said...

I'll be the first to say, I work in a much more casual office than my career began in, and I milk it for all it's worth. :)

Chic Runner said...

As I write this comment, my hair is in a ponytail and I'm wearing flats. :) Though I know that my super casual work environment: Jeans, sweaters, tanks and running clothes, are much different than corporate America! :) I have huge respect for those who wear heels all day! I don't think I could ever do it.

Shoshanah said...

I normally wear my hair half-up. It's my internal compromise because I don't feel professional if it's up in a ponytail. We do have casual Fridays, and that's the only time I wear my hair all the way.

legallymarried said...

I usually end up in a ponytail by the end of the day, even though I try to start with my hair down. ;)

d.a.r. said...

I am a heels girl--even though I am fairly tall and end up towering over all of the men I work with (engineering company, so it is mostly men!). I just think most women look dumpy and sloppy in flats.

I try to limit my ponytail days to once or twice a week. And they are usually not high or sloppy. I think that there are definitely days that a sleek and polished pony or bun can look more professional than what some people tend to do to their hair, haha!

saucyminx410 said...

I'm in kind of an odd position I don't consider myself to be in the corporate world but I do have to maintain a professional appearance.I'm Director of Events and Activities for Seniors. On one hand I'm management and expected to have a professional appearance but on the other hand some of the things I do require more comfort and "flexibility" - event decorating and excursions. It is very rare during either type of Activity that I am caught dead in flats. I have been seen in dress clothes and 4 inch heels climbing ladders. I am only 5'3 and I feel like when I am in flats I am invisible. So I look for shoes that have some lift but sturdy heels and ankle support. As far as my hair goes- I will never just toss my hair in a pony tail and go- however I do wear pony tails a couple of times a week- but they are well constructed, time consuming pony tails. Usually back combing, bobby pins, a flat iron, and a curling iron have been involved to get just the right look. Does it make me look more youthful than hair down? Yeah probably but in my position sometimes that can be an advantage- if that's not the case for you I totally agree w/ the no ponytail policy.

Rachel said...

All this time, I thought we were like blog bff's...and then I read this and I'm pretty sure you're gonna disown me as a friend!

I wear ponytails (all the time) and flats (EVERY day).

I know, I know. Please don't hate! But in my defense, I teach elementary school. The corporate world is foreign to me! Ponytails are just so easy, and honestly, my kids could care less about my hair. I probably do ponytails twice a week And flats just make sense. I'm on my feet, on the floor, sitting in tiny seats for majority of the day. I don't know how teachers do it in heels! Heck...I don't know how anyone does it!

Are we still friends?? :)

Nicole-Lynn said...

This post made me laugh. I completely agree with you. I can't wear flats at work.. just makes me look so frumpy and short! I have short legs so when I wear flats I just look so strange. The odd thing is though, I do like flip flops (which are also flats but feel more casual and don't look as weird). I always wear heels to work.. without a doubt.

The poneytail thing... since my hair is so long it has definitely become an end of the day thing for me. I throw my hair up in a ponytail. It doesn't look bad at all, but I do feel less put together.

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