Column: I’m all for dress codes but forget the killer heels

Style and comfort: White Stuff's metallic toe ballerinas
Style and comfort: White Stuff's metallic toe ballerinas
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You can’t have missed the massive storm in a pair of high heels.

You can’t have missed the massive storm in a pair of high heels.

Would-be receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home by a recruitment agency because she was wearing flats in contravention of dress policy that stated that women must wear heels of between two and four inches.

Ladies, who knew that the shoes we choose to wear to work are subject to legislation? Not me. Antiquated? Yes. Sexist? Certainly. Outrageous? You bet. Obviously something that slipped under the radar thirty years ago when equal opportunities in the workplace legislation kicked in - or so we thought.

Some 10,000 people have now signed the online petition calling for a change in the law that allows companies to oblige women to wear heels - and make-up. MPs must now debate it, and hopefully outlaw it.

But, hold on a minute. I actually believe in workplace dress codes, sensible ones that is.

In a restaurant I don’t want to be served by a waitress with flowing locks - flowing all over the food that is, so insisting that staff tie their hair up is fine by me. I don’t mind being helped by a smartly suited greeter in a bank; after all they are representing a company that wants to present a professional image. Likewise I’d expect someone serving on a beauty counter to be made-up showing off the products. In fact, I think it’s fair enough that anyone in a customer-facing role should expect to have to abide by a dress code of sorts. But what they wear on their feet while standing up all day is up to them; it’s a job in an office or shop not a session in a torture chamber. And if someone is blessed enough not to need the magic of make-up to cover those “laughter lines” and dark circles, then good for them. If they work behind the scenes seen only by their colleagues, then who cares if they are make-up free?

What you wear to work should be appropriate for the job you’re doing . You’d think most people would realise this, but unfortunately sometimes they don’t so a dress code is the answer - for both sexes.

The row about Nicola’s heels though is not just about dress codes; it’s about stereotypes (very out-dated) power and control and men keeping women in their place. That’s what has really caused the fury, and rightly so.

Back to the shoes. Who says flats can’t be smart (perhaps flip flops excepted)? Certainly not the fashion editors or high-end designers. For inspiration - and comfort - check out Net-A-Porter.