Are Louboutins Appropriate For the Office?

louboutins for workAre Louboutins appropriate for the office with those sexy red soles? Reader J wonders…

What do think about wearing Louboutins in the office? Is the red sole too sexy?? I have a pair of Simple 85s, which are not high at all. They’re conservative, black kid leather, round toe, surprisingly comfy, but they have this in-your-face scarlet sole. I’ll be working at a bank that has a reputation of being somewhat laidback, but I don’t want to make the wrong impression… Help please?

When I was a first year associate I was completely jealous of another first-year associate who had done some serious shopping during her bar trip — LV bags, Hermes scarves, and Louboutin shoes. She had a classic kitten heel Louboutin, with the trademark red sole. This was before Louboutins were quite as “big” as they are today, so the red sole really stood out, and I thought, looked fabulous. So for my $.02, yes, simple Louboutins are appropriate for the office.

Reader J has a slightly higher heel — the 85mm version, which is just over 3″. Even this I don’t have a problem with — it’s a classic, gorgeous shoe, and so what if there’s a red sole. (Pictured above: Simple 85 Pumps, available at Saks Fifth Avenue for $595.)

Update: I’m seeing a lot of chatter on Twitter and in comments about whether Louboutins are appropriate for assistants or interns.  Does it shout “I’m not here for the money” the same way a Birkin bag does?  To me, a $600 pair of shoes and a $10,000 bag are in entirely different leagues.  I suppose my rule would be that if you can buy it in one paycheck, it’s appropriate for any woman of any level.  My guess is that Reader J can swing a $600 pair of shoes in one paycheck given that she works at a bank — my answer might be different for the unpaid intern.  (But even then I see so many teenagers walking around with Louis Vuitton bags (which generally cost around $1000)…)

But this isn’t to say that ALL Louboutin shoes are appropriate for the office.  For example, I would say that any of the platform shoes pictured below are pushing it for most conservative offices — the office hallway, alas, is a far cry from the red carpet.  (Fun question: can you guess which pair below is the most expensive?)

louboutin 1 louboutin 2 louboutin 3 louboutin 4

 

Readers, what say you?  Is the Louboutin red sole appropriate for the office?

(L-6)

(Check out other comfortable, work-appropriate shoes in the Corporette Guide to Comfortable Heels!)

Comments

  1. Ballerina Girl :

    I’m going to guess that the ones on the right are the most expensive…because they’re the ugliest. :)

    I think red soles are fine…I do wonder if the “I spent a fortune on my shoes” look is office appropriate all the time. Depends on your office. Women at my firm often wore them, and unfairly or not, I often thought they had skewed priorities and spent more time on fashion than on work. I recognize that’s incredibly harsh but it’s a real reaction that some might have. Also, 3 inch heels always seem slightly more date appropriate than work appropriate if they’re 3 inches or more.

    • Good guess! I guessed the black ones because they were plainest… clearly I don’t know from pricey shoes.

    • Ballerina Girl :

      I should add that I don’t think they’re too sexy–I think they’re lovely. I just think that the red sole (which I think is pretty) just calls out “I spend a fortune on my shoes!” in the same way having a LV bag does. I am also just a cheapskate and find it kind of gross that some people spend so much money on shoes.

    • Tired Squared :

      Agree on the ugly … I wouldn’t wear those for $10.

    • “I often thought they had skewed priorities and spent more time on fashion than on work. ”

      Hilarious coming from someone commenting on a “fashion” blog.

      • Ballerina Girl :

        Perhaps, but that’s what I think when I see it. It’d take me quite a while to afford $700 shoes and I think that it can suggest that you’re more into form over substance. I don’t think it’s fair, but it’s my first reaction–and those matter at work.

        • Anonymous :

          Ballerina Girl,
          Perhaps a diffrent take on this is that becasue they prioritize work, they have the mony to spluge when they want!

          • At banks especially, you’re sort of expected to project a conservative, I-will-take-your-money-seriously attitude. And from what I know of the service industry (there are many services – wealth management, legal advice, whatever), it is bad form to flash your money around because it can make the clients feel like they are being overcharged and paying for those fancy shoes themselves.

      • found a peanut :

        like

    • I would wear all but the red fire ones to the office (i wouldnt wear those anywhere though). The black ones have a tad too skinny a heal for my liking at work, and the animal print (or whatever) a bit too high an uncovered platform, but I would and do wear the red ones on a regular basis!

      • If they’re office appropriate, then it shouldn’t matter whether they’re Louboutins or from Payless. And honestly, unless they’re sky high (=not office appropriate), I’m not sure who would notice the red soles anyway!

        I don’t judge my office colleagues for wearing crappy (quality-wise) clothes/shoes (maybe they can’t afford better ones or have financial issues that I’m unaware of) and I’m certainly not going to judge them for wearing great quality Louboutins.

  2. Betty White :

    Anyone have any good recommendations for lotion/sunscreen for your face that doesn’t leave you looking shiny/greasy but has SPF protection of 30+?

  3. phdknitter :

    I think Louboutins are perfectly fine for even the most conservative of offices as long as the shoe itself is appropriate. What’s more important in this case is the style and height of the shoe, not the color of the sole.

    • fwiw, I agree with you completely. But I think this is a topic with serious potential of turning into another Nuclear (Birkin Bag) $h!tstorm.

      • found a peanut :

        I will summarize how this will turn out:

        Several women will express disgust and distaste that other women spend so much on shoes. They will say that wearing such shoes to work is inappropriate.

        Other women will halfheartedly argue that wearing them is OK. These women are women who own expensive shoes. They will only argue halfheartedly because they will be afraid of being called out for their expensive footwear.

        See also: The Birkin discussion; the engagement ring discussion

        • Well, we can see what side of the equation you lie on. ;)

        • I must have missed the last firestorm, but what is to call about about owning expensive shoes? If you can afford it, by all means, buy yourself some fabulous shoes. And even if you cant afford it, who am I to judge?? I personally love me some Louboutins! (though fwiw, stuart weitzman are always the most bang for your buck!

        • Anonymous :

          You have a point; I see where this conversation has gone.

          It never dawned on me to really focus on how much anyone else spends on their purses, shoes, etc. It’s making a huge assumption about someone without any of the facts. Example, when my best friend bought her first pair of Manolos, she got them at a HUGE discount during a sale and they ended up being under $100. My sister is also a big fan of designer bags, and she skimped and saved and stopped eating out, etc., until she saved the $ for the LV bag that she wanted. I have a pair of Tory Birch shoes that I would have never purchased for myself, but a friend gave them to me after she decided that they didn’t fit comfortably.

          It’s not for anyone to judge why or how much someone else spends on their belongings because no one really knows the circumstances of any one else’s bank account/budget/family situation/etc.

        • PhDKnitter :

          You have a point; I see where this conversation has gone.

          It never dawned on me to really focus on how much anyone else spends on their purses, shoes, etc. It’s making a huge assumption about someone without any of the facts. Example, when my best friend bought her first pair of Manolos, she got them at a HUGE discount during a sale and they ended up being under $100. My sister is also a big fan of designer bags, and she skimped and saved and stopped eating out, etc., until she saved the $ for the LV bag that she wanted. I have a pair of Tory Birch shoes that I would have never purchased for myself, but a friend gave them to me after she decided that they didn’t fit comfortably.

          It’s not for anyone to judge why or how much someone else spends on their belongings because no one really knows the circumstances of any one else’s bank account/budget/family situation/etc.

      • I can’t/won’t afford them, but lust after them, and I think they’re okay for the office on an occasional basis. However, even the most neutral nude CL pump is not really meant to be worn day-in-and-day-out. One of my favorite fashion bloggers (who has a full-time corporate job) has nude CL pumps, plus Target knockoffs, and she wears the Target version most frequently. I work in a corporate environment where stilletos and platforms, strappy shoes, etc. are not only acceptable, but encouraged. But I think in a more “strict” corporate environment that they can work well in the more classic styles. If I saw CL’s on an exec in my office, I would 1) definitely notice and 2) be impressed and moderately jealous. I can’t imagine reaching a pay grade in which I would be comfortable spending that much on shoes personally though.

    • Diana Barry :

      Agreed.

      • I wore my Simple 70s, i.e. the lowest-heeled Loubs, with a small internal platform, to the office a couple of years ago. The guys had no idea what they were. Nowadays, a little more visible, but still I would not object to seeing them on others in an office. And I’m very conservative. I wouldn’t mind it on a junior person either – so she saved up for a really nice pair of shoes. It is different then the Birkin, or even an LV purse covered in logos, to my way of thinking.

        My perspective is biased since I have found my Loubs to be among the best-made and most comfortable heels I own.

    • Here’s a question though – are they appropriate for non-conservative offices? I do quasi-public interest law but I like nice clothes. If I wore a pair, is it like John Edwards getting a $400 haircut?

      • If you wore Louboutins in my public interest office, many people would be gossiping about you and your spending habits. If you wore an equally pricey pair of non-recognizable designer shoes, no one would notice except the two or three other women who are also into fashion. It’s not fair, but it’s how things are and have been at every public sector place I’ve worked.

        I know because I carry very expensive handbags that no one can recognize unless they are also into handbags – the few times someone else has realized how nice my bag is, I’ve gotten disparaging remarks.

      • I work for a government agency and the Big Big Boss is known for her Loubs. I’m not sure we peons could get away with such things, though…

    • I agree— but in this case, I think a 4-inch heel is inappropriate for the office. I’d keep it to 3 or lower.

  4. Can’t tell which is more expensive, but I’m lusting after that patent red pair. Delicious!

  5. I think certain Louboutins are very classic and look great with a suit. I have a pair myself and wear them frequently. Even if women (because you know men don’t know the difference!) want to judge me for spending my hard-earned money on a pair of fabulous shoes, that still won’t stop me from wearing them!

  6. Corporate Tool :

    I would be wary of them if I were a new-hire. The red sole is attention-grabbing, sexy, and announces that you paid a lot for your shoes. Not necessarily the first impression you want to make.

  7. I think if the shoes are otherwise appropriate for the office, they can be worn. But I do agree with the above thought that some people may form an opinion (positive or negative) based on the fact that you are wearing an obviously expensive shoe.

  8. Shoe lust :

    I work in finance, and am the banker equivalent of a junior associate. I have admired this exact pair of low-heeled round toe pumps for a while. I never imagined wearing them to the office, though! While they are too high fashion for every day, I think they would be the perfect shoe for conferences. The red flash of the sole is a bit of a power play, and when I’m in a room of strangers at cocktail hour I want to look polished, successful and like I’m not afraid to show it.

  9. found a peanut :

    I sure hope so because I wear mine all the time. I have a pair of 70mm (sooooo comfy) and 100mm (not so much) simples that are my go-to shoes for work (they live in my desk drawer). I would tend to think that most men wouldn’t know what the red soles means, and if they do it’s because their wives/girlfriends wear Loubs, and if their wives/girlfriends are buying them, they are not going to look down on you for buying them. So really, the only people who care are women looking to be judgmental.

    • I agree. I think most men won’t have a clue and if they do, won’t care. Maybe they’ll garner an eye roll of “women and their shoes,” but that’s likely it. I think women will either be clueless, love them or be judgmental. Truthfully, it’s hard for me to imagine most professional women I know making a negative judgment about an employee or colleague based on expensive shoes or handbags. That’s a good thing!

  10. I’d guess the red one is most expensive. The other ones look expensive but also very hooch.

  11. I think that unfortunately, Louboutins have become such a “thing” that the red sole is akin to carrying an LV logo bag. There’s the risk of people thinking you’re a label snob/irresponsible with money/living off your parents, and the even worse risk of people thinking you bought a counterfeit. So for that reason I’d steer clear unless you’re pretty senior.

    I do think the classic Louboutin pumps are beautiful shoes, though, even though I never wear heels.

    • By the way, I say I’d steer clear unless you’re pretty senior because I think when you see a woman partner carrying a high-end bag or wearing expensive shoes, people assume she bought it as a present for herself. The same assumption isn’t usually made of junior professionals, in my experience.

      • found a peanut :

        I wear a wedding band to complement my red soles. Would you assume I married a sugar daddy or that I have some boyfriends on the side?

        • Yep, I too wear a wedding band to accompany my high end accessories. And my husband is a landscaper and will be our SAHD in a few years, so Mamma buys her own nice things! I am getting a little tired of the judging about how someone can afford a bag/shoes/jewelry/etc. Having expensive things doesn’t have to reflect poorly upon the wearer. How about assuming the best about the wearer instead of the worst? “Wow she must be great with budgeting her money” instead of assuming something sleazy or misogynistic.

          Duckie – I see now that you said “in my experience” and not “in my opinion” so I’m not saying that it’s your personal attitude, it’s just something I’m tired of in general.

          • I don’t assume someone else bought them, but I also think it’s fair to judge someone for how they value/spend money. I think that it’s kind of horrifying that people spend obscene amounts of money on things like shoes or purses when some people have so little. Yes, Pollyana, etc. but I think it’s fair to judge someone’s priorities (spending or what have you)–just not fair to assume someone else paid for them, etc, which I agree is sexist and comes up far too often on this blog.

          • But Sara, you’re just assuming that it’s a zero-sum game and because money was spent on shoes, ipso facto, that person did not spend an equal, or greater, amount on charity or helping out those who “have so little.” That’s immediately assuming the worst about someone and as far as you know, she could have recently donated money or time that far outvalues the cost of a pair of shoes.

          • Anonymous :

            @Sara: but what constitutes “obscene amounts of money”? Wouldn’t my $35 Nine West shoes be “obscene” to someone living in the slums of Rio?

          • Yes, it’s all relative. But I think that $700 for shoes is obscene in the relatively rich society we live in. No one else has to think so. I don’t think you’re a horrible person if you have $700 shoes. I just think we probably have different priorities. And that’s the message that conspicuous consumption can sometimes communicate.

            Imagine what $700 shoes look like in the slums of Rio. Where, interestingly enough, lots of people have DirecTV but dirt floors–true story. Lots of people have skewed priorities–doesn’t make it any smarter.

            As for whether they give money to charity, I’m sure that lots of people are very charitable–I just think that spending $700 on shoes is kind of crazy. We all justify our crazy purchases, but in my book, that’s crazy. And if you advertise your splurges, you’re opening yourself to peering eyes–sometimes we don’t like that in a work setting.

          • @Sara: Understood. But for every reaction of horror you or I have, and judgment that you or I pass, someone else is having the same reaction about us and our priorities. Which is why it’s good to temper our judgments about other people’s priorities. I don’t have $700 shoes. I don’t even have $200 shoes. But I don’t think all people buying $700 shoes are crazy.

        • Anonymous :

          Depend on your age. Young = Sugar Daddy/ Rich Daddy. Older = highly successful.

          • found a peanut :

            Ugh. I’m young(ish). I wish life imitated people’s misconceptions and I had a sugar daddy to buy me my nice things. Instead I just have my boring, same-age husband that I married for love.

        • Insecure much?

        • Are you young? Because yes if you are young and aren’t making a lot of money. either 1) you didn’t get those shoes, so yes your husband/bfs/parents did or 2) you are terrible with money. If you are in a position where you make a lot of money, wear them, if I’m in your office I know about how much you make, so I know you can afford them even though I personally wouldn’t pay that much for shoes.

      • The 1950s are back!

    • Betty White :

      See, I definitely don’t think women aren’t buying them for themselves (maybe because I don’t have others buying me fancy shoes) but I do think that if you’re older, it looks like you’re living within your means.

      • I know a fair number of young (student and intern) women whose parents buy them high-end presents, and some who get them from their boyfriends as well. Fair or not, this has created a perception that they’re not hard workers and I have heard people snark about their designer items behind their backs.

        I also have a friend who doesn’t live within her means at all and buys a lot of very high-end designer items, and she complains that her coworkers perceive her as an airhead and a ditz (she’s not). She’s a junior associate. It’d be different, I think, if she bought one pair of Loubies after receiving her first bonus, or something. But she wears fancy designer shoes and bags day in and day out, and people notice and snark.

    • If my husband bought me a pair of Louboutins (like the tan ones pictured–I love those!), I would wear them with pride to my office. Why should I be ashamed that he makes good money and buys me nice things? That’s not sleazy.

  12. Interested to see what people say. I generally only take issue with them because I know how much they cost and I am a judgmental b*tch when it comes to stuff like that. When I see a first year wearing $700 shoes (that are nearly impossible to find on sale), I really think that they should be spending their money in more productive ways.

    I hadn’t thought of the red sole as the problem, but I saw a woman the other day in all black, with the black pumps the reader mentioned, and the red sole was just so….sexy. It was a cool look, but not one I want to emulate when I am at work.

    • Agreed re your first paragraph. Maybe I am just getting curmudgeonly in my old age, but I think this is akin to the Hermes bag issue. If you have the money to buy $750 shoes, great, but don’t wear them to the office until you can wow people with your laser-sharp analytical skills and Denningesque writing abilities first.

      • Confessions :

        This

        • I would hope that anyone I kept on my staff fit that bill:).

        • wow? what can a pair of shoes possibly have to do with your legal (or banking or whatever) abilities? If youre a first year working in biglaw, you can certainly afford these shoes and you are likely childless and unmarried at this point in your life, so quite frankly, i think this is a great way to spend some of your hard earned money.

          In full disclosure, I am a fan of expensive shoes and have many pairs (though often find them on sale). I am a senior associate in biglaw, but married with 2 kids. I was working in a significatly lower paying job right out of law school and did not buy many items like this until i felt i really could afford it.

          • Anonymous :

            I believe the point they;re making is that it’s better for a new hire to be noticed for her work before she’s noticed for anything else. If she’s perceived as showing off it may count against her.

          • In my mind, spending a lot of money on any single item displays a certain amount of risk-taking. When you spend, you’re making that judgement call that you won’t need that big was o’ cash anytime soon. In a profession where others pay you for your expertise and judgement, showing this attitude towards money/risk sows the seed in a client’s mind that you might have the same priorities and attitudes about risk when handling *their* money. In other professions, it’s probably different – boldness and risk taking are good things in other circles.

    • I think it would only bother me if my co-worker was both wearing designer clothes/shoes and complaining about money or her student loans to me. At least, I have several friends who do this and it drives me crazy. Really? You’re so tight on money that you can’t go to that professional development conference? But you can spend $100+ every weekend going out? I feel so sorry for you. Bonus angry points if the person is simultaneously complaining about money, spending money frivolously, and trying to convince me to spend my money frivolously.

  13. Do these Talbots’ platform slingbacks pass the Corporette test? I think they’re close to the line… but I luvs anyway! http://bit.ly/jC3M7O

    • Not ok in my office, due to the platform. You’d stick out in anything over a 3″ or so heel. Obviously ymmv.

    • I’d say it’s a know your office thing combined with how long you have been there (I wouldn’t wear those shoes to any law firm office if you’re new/an intern/a summer associate but if you have established credibility, you can push boundaries more easily). I get away with a lot in my office – branch office of an LA firm. We also have a partner in our office who pushes fashion boundaries. I would wear those shoes, though they are basically at the border of heel/platform height that I would wear.

    • Those would be perfectly appropriate in my business casual Biglaw firm office in Texas. In fact, I want a pair now.

    • Perfectly appropriate in PHX (for everything but court). Love the teal.

    • Former 3L :

      These are close to the line for me, given A) substantial platform; B) peep toe; and C) slingback. I think if it were just two out of three, I would have no problem with it.

      • Anonymous :

        Oh geez. They’re from grandma central Talbots. If they’re not office appropriate, then you probably should quit your job… it sounds like they’d be happiest if you dressed like a sister wife.

  14. While I think that they’re fine for associates who are obviously making a good salary, seeing them on law clerks (I’m currently a federal clerk) or interns strikes me as attracting attention in a bad way. (I see it as similar to the previous discussion on the intern with the Birkin.)

  15. I just cannot see calling the sole of a shoe sexy. It’s a color on the bottom of an otherwise very conservative shoe. I think saying a colored sole is too sexy is really treading the line of trying to be more like men as opposed to trying to be professional looking.

    That’s just my thought though and I guess that’s the point of these discussions. Some people will judge you for being too sexy, being too much like a man, spending too much, looking like you spent too little, too big of an engagement ring, too small…. it just never ends. I think a beautiful classic shoe is exactly that. If they’re comfortable too? Consider me envious!

  16. AnonInfinity :

    I clicked on the links to see which pair is most expensive and now I’m sitting here with my mouth open like this :O Ack!

    • somewherecold :

      Me, too! (Says the person that just “splurged” on a pair of Butter wedges from Gilt.)

    • Me too! Those shoes are a clear heel away from swinging around a pole!

    • I’m convinced designers sometimes design completely outlandish things to see if people will actually pay absurd prices for them just to see how much power they have as a designer. I first formed this opinion as a teenager when Abercrombie and Fitch was selling ripped, faded jeans for like $100. I believe those shoes are another example…

      • I love your theory! hahahaha. I was just always confused where the ugly came from wrt such items; figured they just can’t always get it right? This social experiment idea is way more fun though.

  17. Jean Auel :

    Anyone else think Laboutin’s red soles are a nod to Jean Auel’s “The Mammoth Hunters?”

  18. I see no real issue with wearing tasteful shoes. One thing I always take issue with is the assumption that all first-year associates are in their first real jobs. I started law school a bit later and had other classmates who had expensive bags and shoes because they had worked for several years before going back to school.

    • I completely agree. I am in law school now and I have worked (and am still working while in school) for over 15 years. I suppose that makes me “older” so I wouldn’t be judged so harshly. I don’t own any $600 shoes, but I certainly could without being “irresponsible” considering I only have a 2200 sq foot house and drive a Ford! Why can’t everyone just accept that each person has different financial priorities. I’ll take small house, cheap car, travelling and nice shoes and bags over million dollar home and 100K car any day of the week!

  19. I would try not to be judgemental… unless the shoe-wearer started complaining about student loans. Then I’d be judging.

  20. i think it comes down to how much you’re getting paid. your bosses know how much they pay you. if you’re making good money, wearing those shoes is like a power play. it shows that you value your appearance and reputation enough to wear an expensive, well-made shoe. if you’re not making very much, it tends to send the message that you’re irresponsible with money or that you come from a lot of money, neither of which is especially flattering.

    but i definitely dont think theyre too “sexy,” that seems pretty silly to me.

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