Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.
Here’s a timely question, readers: Which are the best sneakers for work outfits? When are “sneakers for work” appropriate in your offices? Do you think there’s a generational divide here?
Here at Corporette, we’ve always taken the position that sneakers are fine — for your commute. I certainly wore my Chucks with suits on a lot of commutes, and kind of thought it was a cute look… for my commute. But retailers have been showing sneakers with outfits for years (some of the product photos we’ve featured are pictured above), so I thought it was prime time for a discussion. Readers even recently had a threadjack pondering this issue (with several saying sneakers were never appropriate for work outfits). I’ve included some of the choices from Team Sneakers for Work below.
For my $.02, a lot of the newer (expensive!) sneakers look like the kind of thing I kept in my gym locker in middle school — the thinking at the time was they were so fugly they could stay at school because I’d never want to wear them elsewhere. But obviously, tastes and styles change, and after a bit of adjustment (and seeing it enough places), those of us on the older side adapt. This is partly why I’ve always suggested being really wary of a new trend or aesthetic that wasn’t popular five years ago — but at the rate that fashion moves these days that may be difficult (and, I suppose, another vote for classic style for work outfits because you’re more likely to get more wear out of them).
(Another $.02: If you’re not seeing midlevels wearing sneakers, if your boss(es) are 40+ and/or your bosses are “non-fashion people” … tread really, really carefully before wearing sneakers to work.)
Also, N.B. this reader trick: Magic Erasers work great on cleaning dingier white soles and sometimes white leather also. A lot of brands are also making washable sneakers (notably, Rothy’s and Allbirds).
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Commuting Shoes: Sneaker Flats That Will Blend in With Trousers
The main claim to fame for these kinds of sneaker flats is that if you’re working in a really conservative office and want to wear comfortable shoes for your commute, but not have a coworker look too closely and think, “Hey, there she is in her sneakers again,” these will blend in. (We’ve even had conversations in the past about whether commuting shoes should be swapped in the lobby or even outside your office building!)
I will freely admit that these are not chosen because they’re “cute” — many are pretty hideous, in my opinion. But they blend with work clothes and are comfortable, and lightweight enough to carry in your bag if you want to.
Reader favorites that have been called out over the years:
Sneaker Sneakers: The Classics
We’ve actually had a conversation about what your weekend sneakers say about you — some of the “classic” sneakers we discussed are below…
Recent Reader Favorites: The Sneakers People are Wearing to Work
These were the shoes that readers called out in the recent discussion — I’d love to hear what the general reader opinion is, and how you’re styling the sneakers with work outfits!
Some readers noted that they loved their Allbirds for work. There are a ton of colors and styles, many of which are water resistant, and the shoes are generally $105–$155. The pictured shoes are $110.
Rothy’s has similar styles that are washable.
Not a surprise: Some people really love Cole Haan’s lightweight and popular oxfords. The latest ones have a leather heel detail (some in a print), whereas the originals had entirely fabric uppers. The latest shoes are $170 at spots like Zappos.
What do you think, readers — are you on Team Sneakers for Work, or on Team Please Wear Shoes? Where would you draw the line for which sneakers are acceptable for work and which aren’t? (E.g., certain colors like white or black, only “well taken care of sneakers,” sneakers with a specific sole color (e.g., the way that historically, heels with a cork sole aren’t appropriate for work).
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