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What Your Shoes Say About You

and wear shoes

Ain’t you glad shoes can’t talk,” sang blues guitarist Ry Cooder, because they might tell where you’ve been.


Ahhh, but shoes do talk.shoe phone

Your feet lie outside your perceptual field and therefore get less conscious attention.  Result:  they subtly reveal your inner attributes and attitudes.  These self-disclosures are received and interpreted—rightly or wrongly—by other people.


The simple fact is:  anything outside your peripheral vision gets monitored and maintained less frequently than things that you see often.  Think of the time you spend caring for your face compared to your feet.  Your face is highly visible to everyone, including you, whereas your feet are less visible to everyone, including you.


Bottom line:  your shoes present an unedited version of who you are.


Footwear tells not only where you’ve been, but where you stand and where you’re going.

5 ways for your shoes to get their story straight:



1.  Condition

Poorly maintained shoes scream that you lack attention to detail.  Elegant clothing combined with feet that visually stink is a mixed message which undermines your credibility.   Broadcast that message and your audience will infer the worst about you.



You don’t actually have to be a slack-ass for people to assume that you are one.  You only have to wear slack-ass shoes.  If your shoes declare that you’re less than you look, that’s the message others hear.  They don’t call it ‘down at the heel’ for nothing.



Solution:  keep soles and heels in repair and keep leather well-conditioned with renovating polish.

cool shoe2. Lace-ups vs. loafers

A banker friend once asked me, ‘Why do some businessmen wear cheap shoes?  My MBA course taught me to always invest in good shoes.’



MBA programmes teach that because the quality and condition of a man’s shoes (women’s too) has more bearing on how he is perceived than most other articles of clothing.

So if you own just one pair of business shoes, make it black lace ups in a conservative style.  Black is versatile, lace-ups are always acceptable and conservative styles stay in fashion.

Some people still judge loafers to be less formal and therefore less acceptable than lace-ups.  If in doubt, play the percentages.  Go classic:  black, lace ups.  Best of all, good shoes cost less than an MBA.



3.  Heavy metal

shiny toeDecorative metal buckles and tabs are often seen on loafers.


A good business loafer is like a sleek, understated limo.  A discreet, small metal logo is an acceptable badge.  But chains, plates and shiny metal styling are like designer hubcaps, rear spoilers and silly bumper stickers.


A black limo is visually arresting; but an overly ostentatious chariot can get you arrested.

Besides, tarnished metal looks tawdry.  Good shoes provide give you cosmetic durability, ie, they look good over time and thus keep you looking good over time.




4.  Sole concerns

Do you suffer from electrophobia (irrational fear of electrocution and/or electric shocks)?


Then stick with hard soles (leather or black nylon) for business wear.  Thick rubber or soft soles are a bounding leap in the direction of casual attire.  The rule is:  the heavier the sole, the more casual the shoe.  It’s unwise to mix casual shoes with formal attire for business purposes.  In fact, it’s shocking!




5.  Shine or matte finish

Shiny shoes are a must for business.  Glossy shoe leather is more formal than a soft matte finish.

Think of shoe surfaces as a continuum.  At one end is the reflective, military ‘spit and polish’ shine.

At the other end is the soft, lush look of suede.  Matte lies in between.

The more formal the occasion, the shinier should be your shoes.

Bottom line:  treat your shoes well and they’ll always speak of you in glowing terms.




5 Ways to Shoot Yourself in the Feet

Is your image lame?

Does your career limp?

It’s probably because your footwear:

  • is not made from leather (even good sporting shoes are partially made from leather).

  • is not black, cordovan, or deep brown.

  • is white, grey, navy or light tan.

  • associates you with a sub-culture that is contrary to the business world (eg Doc Martens boots).

  • has thick rubber soles, deep treads and is more suited for scaling Kilimanjaro than the corporate ladder.



Conclusion:  People are noticing your footwear.  All the time.  They’re just not telling you.  So give them something to see and talk about.  When putting your best foot forward, make sure it’s well-shoed..

4 pair shoes


About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


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