Business DressBusiness EtiquetteOffice Etiquette

Flip-Flops: Are They Appropriate in the Office???

It’s summer time, and they’re back!  Flip-flops. Maybe they never went away. They simply went into hibernation for the winter.  I suspect you know what I am talking about–those shoes that have nothing to hold them to your foot except a little piece of material across or between your toes. Flip-flops, slides or whatever you choose to call them, are the hottest trend in summer fashion footwear.

If you are wondering when the first shoe of this type appeared, I did a little research and discovered that sandals—which is frankly what we are referring to—came into existence around 2000 B.C. So for those of you who think this shoe is a 21st century creation, think again.  The sandal began as a basic item made to protect the soles of the feet when shoes were not available.  The simple strap between the toes made it easy to wear.  When this shoe resurfaced in modern times, it was still pretty much utilitarian footwear known as a beach shoe or shower shoe.  That’s right, a shower shoe.

So how did the shower shoe become the most popular footwear of the season?  It’s hard to say. One of the morning television news shows recently did a feature story on flip-flops. Several of the reporters were actually touting this as the shoe of choice to wear to work. One of the news anchors, a well-dressed man in a suit and tie, expressed his dismay at the thought of what he called “thongs” showing up at the office. I’m with him.

If you’re looking for shoes to wear to the office this summer and you feel that flip-flops are inappropriate, you may be in for a lengthy search like a business woman friend of mine discovered. She began her hunt for professional footwear online. To her dismay, what popped up on every site when she looked for shoes under “career” or “flats” were flip-flops.

Flip-flops or slides come in every fabric and heel height imaginable.  Once an inexpensive plastic shoe with a flat sole, they are now available in a variety of manmade and natural materials, in low to high heels, in every color and design you can conceive of and with prices ranging from $5 to $500.  (No, that’s not a typo.)

Flip-flops have become versatile, but once again, people are confusing the latest fashion with business attire.  Flip-flops, and their sandal or slide cousins, are not business professional footwear. They are casual to the extreme. It is not simply a matter of appearance—whether these shoes look professional or not—it is also a matter of safety. You can easily trip when you catch your foot on something unexpected. Flip-flops are also a noise nuisance. The sound of shoes slapping around the office can be annoying.

Before you slip into your cool new slides for which you may have paid a small fortune, think about where you work.  Are these shoes suitable for your work environment and type of business?  Do they follow the dress code if there is one?

The owner of a local travel agency came up with a simple rule to help her staff decide if their sandals, slides or flip-flops were appropriate for the office. Her guideline is “If it is designed for or can be worn on the beach, it is not appropriate for the office.”  I think she nailed it.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is on a mission to stamp out rudeness. She is a Savannah-based business expert on business etiquette and professional conduct, a sought-after speaker and established author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her at to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products. More information on professional conduct is available in her best-selling books Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners. Invite Lydia to speak at your next conference or meeting.



Lydia Ramsey

Lydia Ramsey is a leading business etiquette and modern manners expert who offers seminars, keynote speeches, webinars and individual coaching. She works with corporations, associations, colleges and universities as well as individuals.

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