Reader Mail: Can Oxford Shoes Be Worn to Work?

VANELi Ipswich OxfordToday’s reader mail has to do with shoes…

I am going to be a summer associate in a couple months in a large New York City law firm. I also have been secretly drooling over women’s oxford style shoes in the last few months. My question is are these shoes appropriate or do I stick to basic pumps for summer associates? What about as a first year attorney? If so, would they ever be appropriate with a skirt or only with pants? Thanks!

Born – Pace (Black Leather) – FootwearThis is a great question, as the style seems to be on deep discount at a lot of stores (including the pair featured above, on sale at Nordstrom for $65: VANELi Ipswich Oxford) For our $.02, the shoe pictured above is totally appropriate for the office — with the higher vamp, it’s perfect for girls who have a slightly hard time walking in pumps — and it’s great for getting a more comfortable shoe that still has a great heel. (We own the Born oxfords, pictured at right — very comfy — available at Zappos for $102: Born – Pace/a>.) That said, we believe our mother would call this a “nun shoe” — unless the oxford has 4″ heels and looks very fashionable, you will feel a bit less attractive if you wear it with skirts. Does it mean that makes it somehow inappropriate for the office? No. But it just might not be the look you’re going for.

comfortable heelsNow, on a related note, there are some oxfords that expose toes — we would argue that these are inappropriate for the office. We’re not big fans of open-toed shoes at the office anyway, but to have the entire foot encased in leather and then an unexpected flash of toe… it’s a fashionable style that’s supposed to be naughty and cheeky. We would not advise you to purposely dress to be naughty and cheeky at the office. Just our $.02, though.

Readers? Care to weigh in?


  1. I think that if a woman can pull these off, they’re definitely “appropriate” for the office. The problem is pulling them off…I have small feet with larger calves, so these make me look out-of-proportion and elfin, but big feet could take on a pilgrim-iffic appearance. I think I’d tell summer associates to stay away from them (you don’t want to be known for anything but your good work and friendly personality as a summer), but that a first year might be all right wearing them.

  2. i have a pair-wear them mostly in the winter though. def work appropriate and easy to walk around the office in. look good with slacks and dresses.

  3. I have a pair that looks like the first two shoes above that I wear. Mine are from Steve Madden and a few years old. I wear them under pants with socks and with skirts when things are business casual with dark tights. I also have a pair of flat oxfords that are very male looking that I wear with pants when things are business casual in the summer. Overall, yay for oxfords.

  4. I love this style, but I think it looks a bit heavy for the summer. Problem is, I find it very difficult to find appropriate “summer” office shoes. I completely agree with the “no open toe” policy, but that seems to be 90% of what’s out there these days. So, I’m wearing a Mary Jane style and some really old pumps until I can find something closed-toe and new.

  5. Anonymous :

    I find those unspeakably hideous. Please do not wear them. They are no more inappropriate than any other extremely frumpy item of clothing, but frump is frump.

    A pair of flat oxfords, however, could be both completely appropriate and cheeky (in the YSL woman’s tux sort of a way).

  6. What about high heeled loafers? I have a pair that I was planning to wear with suit pants. Would that be appropriate for a summer associate?

  7. I think open toe can be just fine if the shoes are simple and the open is minimal. But I am not a lawyer. I am talking Corporate America. Come on, tell me it’s not OK to wear a pair of 2.5 inch heel Ferragamo slingbacks with a discrete peeptoe. Come on. No one will mind. Except maybe a judge, and I can’t speak to the code of dress for lawyers, it’s too arcane.

  8. I have oxfords with a glen plaid pattern along the side. LOVE THEM.
    I also wear high-heeled loafers, but for some reason they are incredibly uncomfortable. They look very smart though.

    I don’t ever wear open-toed/backless/slingback shoes to work, even though one of the women partners in my office wears some strappy sandals on a regular basis and they really becomes her.

  9. I think it just depends on the shoe and the environment. I am a government attorney and I regularly wear my closed toe slingbacks to work. (They only have a 2.5 inch heel.) I never wear open toes, with the exception of jeans today. I do have a pair of peep toes, however, that show only about an inch in the front. I wear those pretty regularly. So, again, I think it depends on the office. (We also have no issues with wearing sleeveless and no panyhose.)

    I personally love the oxford shoe, but I think it is way too heavy for summer. My friends in big firm law would say that they are perfect for winter, however. But, I wouldn’t wear them with a skirt suit. It draws too much attention to your legs and feet.

  10. NYC is hot in the summer. A spectator/sling-back (two-tone or solid in brown, tan, navy blue) would be my choice.

  11. I agree that these are really ugly. There’s something about the lace-up v. high heel — like it can’t decide what kind of shoe it is. I guess if you kept them hidden under pant legs, they’d be OK, but I think they’d look strange with a skirt.
    You can’t go wrong with high heeled loafers, basic pumps, even slingbacks. As a summer associates, you’re basically on a 3 month interview, so I’d keep the conservative view with dressing this summer. You can get more creative when you get the job.

  12. Anonymous :

    I love the oxfords with either pants or a skirt. But the reason they are on sale now is b/c they are 100% a winter shoe. Do not wear them in NY in the summer -it just won’t look right.

    I am a NY lawyer and my rule of thumb is profesional style peeptoe or sling back is appropriate but other than that stay away from open-toe.

  13. I agree with Ashley, it totally depends on the environment you work in regarding an open toe shoe. I work in a mid-size law firm in Texas and no panty hose and open toe shoes are acceptable. Perhaps because it gets so dang hot!

  14. I am an attorney in New Jersey that graduated from law school in Texas. I am so glad that the rule in Texas allowed women to wear open toe shoes and no stockings. I love it so much that, in the summer months, I apply those Texas rules to my court and office attire here in New Jersey!

  15. I have no problem with the peeptoe for work. I’ve worn it for years and in and out of courtrooms both in my current (read: liberal) state and my former (totally red) state. You do have to take care of your toes though, I just noticed mine are not super pretty today and I’m feeling kind of embarrassed.

  16. It never even crossed my mind that there could be a problem with peep toe shoes. All the women at my firm in NYC wear them. I wouldn’t wear them to court, but around the office I think it’s fine.

    People shouldn’t obsess so much about each component of their outfit–the goal here is to look put together. Any woman in a j. crew pencil skirt and nice blouse or top that doesn’t reveal too much cleavage, and a cardigan or croppe jacket should be fine, peep-toes or not.

  17. Lawyers wear peeptoes, slingbacks and even heeled sandals during the summer at my biglaw NYC office. But more often by midlevels and senior attorneys; summers and first-years tend to be more conservative. And the wearer must sport a recent pedicure!

    Only the most conservative dressers here wear pantyhose. Bare legs are the norm, from the women partners down.

  18. Delta Sierra :

    I love high-heeled oxfords, they have a tiny frisson of dominatrix, which I think is fun, so shoot me. Peep toes are also fun, but some offices forbid them, so, in such an office, that’s what you’re stuck with. And we seem to be back to pantyhose: in my region (NE) women wear p.hose all the time and never think twice about it. Me, I bruise easily, have bad balance and work out a lot, and so need the hose to cover up the mayhem. Body makeup to even out the skin of my legs? Far too much trouble, haven’t got the patience, so not a chance. Plus these days I need Spanx panties anyhow, so control-top hose takes care of a lot of grief all at once. Plus it makes my high-heels fit better. Buy decent quality, get the right size. Too hot in summer? Go to work bare-legged and zip into the bathroom and put on the hose before you go to your desk. It’s clearly a regional thing.

  19. I had a lovely pair of these in high school – alas, long gone. If I didn’t work at home, I’d agree with the no-toe policy. But since I do, I not only go peep toe, but full on bare feet and flannels!

  20. I agree with Res Ipsa and an Anonymous–I think these shoes are disgustingly ugly.

    My office has a “no open toe” policy, but I’ve seen a lot of peeptoes. With recent pedicures, of course. I don’t equate slingbacks with peeptoes, and I think slingbacks are fine.

  21. I do not think that these shoes look appropriate with skirts. Just an opinion.