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Shoes Reveal Your Standing

  • By Judith Bowman
  • |
  • September 17, 2015

You can be beautifully dressed, meticulously groomed, and well put together, however, when someone looks down at your feet and your shoes are scuffed, shabby, or stretched out; you have negated all your efforts toward making a professional statement.

Appearance sends a message.  Shoes are not just an accessory, they communicate intention – from boat shoes and Buster Browns to sandals and stilettos, the shoes we choose are revealing!

In 1580, five inch heels were the rage for men and women of the upper classes in France, a sign of wealth and social position.  Height has always been equated with power, as well as the opportunity to literally “see and be seen.”

High heels have a serious physiological impact on bearing and movement.  Pageant contestants wear very high heels at home to practice and ultimately appear fluid and elegant – a challenge, as high heels are not intended for “walking.”

Shoes also reveal the subtext of cultures – ask George W. Bush in 2008.  Had the Iranian journalist who tossed his shoes done so two years earlier, he would have been beheaded (they had just changed the law!)

“Good shoes make you feel good and take you good places.”  – Old Chinese proverb.

“Shoes are the soles of propriety!” – an original quote, moi.

Shoes do so much more than just protect your feet, if you know how to use them!

Men:  the “Presidential” shoe – black is considered the most professional – with or without the cap toe; brown or cordovan take a back seat to black.   You need to earn the right to wear the soft, supple, brown leather tassel loafers.  Incidentally, the reason they are called Presidential is because presidents of the United States and companies, as well as senior executives, wear them.  Johnston & Murphy has a shoe called the Reagan Presidential because Ronald Reagan bought his Presidential shoes here.

Women:  Invest in shoes.  The classic pump is “never wrong.” Patent and grosgrain in summer is fabulous. Suede (cooler months) is considered a notch above leather and no more expensive.  Leave sling-backs, open toes, and stilettos for social events – they will not enhance your professional credibility at work.  You want to be fashionable yet want the statement you make to be all about the professional you – not your fashion-forward/“look at me” shoes or accessory.


  • Shoes should be darker than your hemline. That said, beige, champagne, or spectators are fabulous.
  • White shoes – think nurses and brides.
  • Invest in comfortable walking flats. … American women can take a cue from our European women neighbors who would never be seen (alive!) wearing a business suit with sneakers.


  • Keep shoes well-polished and buffed.
  • See a cobbler before noticeably in need of repair.
  • Use a shoe tree or stuff toes with tissue paper to preserve shape.
  • When traveling, use shoe bags for protection; hotel shower caps will do in a pinch.

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Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images

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Author Bio

Judith Bowman founded Protocol Consultants International in 1993 and has prospered to become an established Business Protocol expert, educator, corporate speaker, and renowned authority in the field of Professional Presence, Dining Savvy, International Protocol Awareness, and personal and professional development. Ms. Bowman also provides Protocol Certification. She is a graduate of Boston College and has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University. Ms. Bowman speaks to critical interpersonal communication skills and shares specific nuances advantageous to exemplary conduct in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive global work environment. She showcases everyday business situations and shows professionals how to leverage these as opportunities to demonstrate respect while earning respect - while showing you know “the difference” while making a difference to stand apart and outclass the competition! Ms. Bowman has authored two business protocol books: “Don’t Take the Last Donut…” (Career Press) presently sold in 16 countries, translated in 14 languages, and her new book, “How to Stand Apart @ Work …” She has authored a weekly Everyday Etiquette column syndicated throughout New England for ten years by the Pulitzer Prize winning Eagle Tribune Publishing Company. Internationally, she authored a Business Protocol column for the prestigious Noblesse Magazine, China. She presently writes a weekly Business Protocol column for Boston Herald newspapers and has a coordinating weekly radio segment, “A Protocol Moment” on Herald Radio. She also writes a monthly Fabulous Woman series which features truly fabulous women who have shattered the glass ceiling and has been featured in Leader to Leader, March, 2015. Bowman has produced a series of support products which include: Executive Etiquette/First Impressions DVD, DINING 101 DVD and Protocol Training DVD – from her on-line How to Stand Apart series.