Perceptions of Ladies in High Heels

I love high heels. The exhilaration of rising from 5’3 to 5’7 in a quick step. The appearance of a much slimmer & perkier lower body. The click on concrete and office lobbies that commands attention. The toe cleavage. Yes…the toe cleavage.

I love high heels.

When I was a Human Resources Assistant, my manager always wore heels and a well-rotated collection of suits. She was also extremely professional, action-orientated and a confident public speaker,  i.e. everything I wasn’t at the time. So I quickly followed her lead and purchased three pair of heels; black, brown & nude. I didn’t instantly soak up the demeanor and skills of my manager through those pointy tipped shoes, but I noticed a difference in my performance. I implemented improvements to our staffing process, followed up with other managers and resolved employee concerns. The staff anticipated my entrance into a room by the sound of my feet and then actually listened while I spoke at the meeting. Was this new-found self-confidence due to my footwear or my experience?

After attempting to train for a marathon and developing shin splints, my heel wearing days were over. So I invested in a new line of shoe wear by purchasing one pair of black, brown & purple flats. At first, I felt deflated. I was back in the land of short people, asking for assistance to reach handbooks on high shelves and making eye-to-chin contact. I worried “Would the staff still respect some girl sporting ballet flats?” My superficial side was quite surprised when no one commented on my “real” height and my flatness made me even more efficient. Instead of concentrating on the physical act of walking, I could run through my mental to-do list or think of an idea for our employee picnic. I could easily keep pace with male coworkers and the more experienced Stiletto-rocking women while finalizing plans for new hire orientation. Yes, I could accomplish the same things at 5’3 that I could at 5’7.

I realize now that just because I want to BE like her, does not mean I need to LOOK like her. My heels did not give me the boost of confidence I needed for a professional environment, it was the example of my manager who wore them. Perhaps those lovely shoes encouraged my inner potential, but my manager gave me the skills to succeed in future environments. Accomplishments, work ethic and attitude speak louder than any pair of shoes.

So, heels or no heels? Ladies, what does wearing or not wearing heels mean to you? Gentlemen, what perceptions do you have of a woman with or without heels?

About the Author

Ali Webster

Ali Webster is a Senior Staffing Coordinator and Social Media Lead. She has found a niche in the implementation, improvement and documentation of staffing processes. Ali drives the content and executes the steps of social recruiting strategy. When she isn’t reading other people’s blogs, she is blogging for her company on Recruitalicious or writing for her personal blog, Miss Early Bird. You can connect with Ali Twitter as @_AWeb.

16 Comments

Leighanne

I love when my wife wears high heels. She must have 100 pairs in her closet and I get to help her polish them and keep them looking good every two weeks. It takes me about 3 hours every other Saturday but I make sure they are polished nicely and any scratches are buffed out so she looks good wearing them. I maintain all her shoes but my favorite are her 4″ and 5″ heels especially the ones with little ankle straps.

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kelly

I wear high heels pretty much every day, and I would absolutely wear the heels in the picture to work, albeit with a conservative suit or dress to offset the color. I’ve heard both positive and negative things about heels – that they’re too overtly sexual and therefore too attention-grabbing or threatening, or, as above, that they’re professional-seeming. I’m 5’8” before I put heels on, so I’m not doing it for height – I just plain like them, and I’m into shoes. One woman once angrily accused me of wearing “mutilating shoes that no one can walk in” as some sort of submission to male standards of beauty. I told her my feet are lovely and healthy and not at all mutilated, and I can play a basketball game in heels if I need to – I can walk just fine. Again, I just like them. To each their own, when it comes to shoes. My staff knows the sound of my walk approaching, too. 🙂 I love hearing how you gradually found your own personal style – I think that’s the ultimate goal.

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Ali Webster

Shaun, Tammy & John, you seem to recognize the importance of inner potential versus outward appearance. The challenge is to maintain this thought-process when workplaces and society are conveying the opposite message.

Shauna, see Michael’s comment for another confidence booster.

Kimberly, if we KNOW what we’re doing and do it well then the respect and perception of co-workers will follow, despite different tastes in footwear.

Bret, thanks for pointing out the “PC” response & responding with a less-PC response ☺ I’ll pose another question: Are you more impressed by a professionally dressed but inept co-worker or a less polished but responsible coworker?

CJ & Stephanie, why do we equate heels to being more professional, or more managerial? For the record, those are not my legs & red is not my color.

Glad this post sparked so much discussion!

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Stephanie Andrews

Great post and great conversation!

I have to be biased here on the side of heels, and dressing nicely in general.

We are humans, and we are visual (and sexual) beings, and it can be a fine line between racy and respectful, but if done well, heels and a well pulled-together outfit can help one’s confidence, and convey to others that you are a professional.

I love pairing racy heels with long pants and a more conservative outfit, or cute flats with something edgier.

It depends on your industry, but I think you should look polished and current… and the click-clack down the hall is just a bonus.

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John Monaco

I agree with alot of what is being said here. Heels definitely command attention and reflect a level of professionalism, etc. But it is truly the person and not the outfit that is important. I remember when I first started my career, the company I was with was professional dress. I was Managing the recruiting efforts of the branch when the company decided to go to ‘business casual’. My initial reaction would be that the more casual dress would lead to a more casual and less efficient work environment. I found that the change was very minimal in reality as outward appreance was only one aspect of an overall professional environment. Great post!

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CJ

I switch back and forth, depending on the outfit. I work in a semi-casual office, so when I wear heels, I do so in in order to look more polished for a presentation, to boost my confidence, or to look more like a manager. Also, the heels in this picture? Not office-appropriate. If I saw anyone in my workplace in those, I’d wonder if she got dressed in the dark. Those are clubbing/date night heels.

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Michael Lunsford

Sometimes you need a device to take you to that next level: to give your attitude a confidence “boost.” But once you get that confidence engine running, the starter fluid isn’t necessary anymore.

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Bret Simmons

I guess the PC response is to say it does not matter, but we notice a woman in heels, and because we notice, it matters. For me, it is the combination of heel height and skirt length that convey if a person knows how to dress professionally, and that is impressive. At work, I appreciate being impressed but not distracted. I find a skirt that hits the knees with polished (more important than the height) heels is impressive.

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Kimberly Roden

Great post, Ali and good stuff to think about. I’m going to hit this at a different angle…

I LOVE heels — the higher the better. Of course, I’m 60″ tall so I get to be a statuesque 5′ 3″ with heels. Early in my career, I once told someone how tall (er, short) I was and he was surprised and commented that I appeared tall because of the way I carried myself. That was a huge confidence booster for me and when I wear heels, it forces me to pull back my shoulders and walk properly. This makes a difference in all of us — how we feel about ourselves and how we’re perceived by others.

So, in a sense, I’m going to have to say that we can KNOW what we’re doing but do others perceive us in the same light?

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Shauna Moerke

I love shoes, especially high heels and the sound they make, but at my height… let’s just say that I’m self-conscious about it. But isn’t that the point of the post? It really shouldn’t matter to me whether I am in heels or flats. Great post.

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Tammy Anderson

Nice post Ali. I love my heels! Heels, or shoes in general for me, is an extension of self. But I agree with Shaun, the important thing is not whether the person wears heels or not, but rather does the person possess the enthusiasm, capability, effort and intellect to perform well.

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Shaun Emerson

Ali,

I love this post because I have actually thought on several occasions why are those heels so loud. Most of my wife’s shoes are crazy loud. Walking the streets in Chicago, the thunder of heels rises above the buzz of the city. Are heels more emphatic then they used to be? Putting my shoe craziness aside, how a person dresses (heels or otherwise) has never been a big deal for me. It’s about enthusiasm, capability, effort and intellect….

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