Pump, heel, or flats – which is best for professional women?

The majority of professional women who come to us for image consultations are naturally interested in wearing shoes that will help them succeed on the job. But nine out of ten of these women are wearing the wrong shoes.

The first thing to keep in mind is that looking in fashion magazines, online, or in stores won’t help you find the best shoes. It’ll only expose you to paid advertisements from shoe manufacturers and designers, none of whom cares in the least about your success on the job. All they care about is moving merchandise and making women feel they need something new and trendy.

The truth is that trendy is ineffective. Just think about it for a moment and you’ll clearly realize that certain styles are NOT going to be effective at work. Very high heels, for instance. The only way to find out what works is to test the footwear, and this is precisely what Manhattan Makeovers has been doing for three decades.

One of the first things we discovered is that the pump is the most effective footwear for the professional–lawyers, doctors, bankers, accountants, and other white-collar jobs. It may sound boring, but the pump in a dark color conveys a subliminal message about your competence, integrity, and honesty. Our fieldwork and comparison tests are unequivocal on this point: your shoes communicate messages to your colleagues, clients, and customers.

The pump needs to have heels that are no more than two or two-and-a-half inches. They cannot be flats. Flats are ineffective at work. Your shoes also cannot be heels. They, too, are ineffective. Save them for the weekend or for dates.

Shoe and pump color for professional women

Probably the biggest mistake women make with their image is trying to match their shoe color to their outfits. Field tests demonstrate repeatedly that it is exponentially more effective to wear shoes that are at least two tones darker than your outfit. For the purpose of avoiding confusion: you don’t want to match the shoes, you want them to be darker.

What do I mean by “at least” two tones darker? This means that the shoes can be significantly darker and they’ll still be effective. For instance, you can wear a white suit and a black pump. You’ll be very effective with this combination.

Do your own shoe test

One final word of advice. I realize that you want to look fashionable. But if you want to be effective resist the temptation. The traditional pump will serve you well. You might want to do what our clients do and keep a reaction diary. See how colleagues, clients, and customers react when you wear dark pumps as opposed to how you’re treated in heels that match your outfits.

Our clients sell more, experience less friction in court, and report better all-around responses with colleagues and associates.


Lawyer Shoes

I just read a fantastic article and wanted to share it here. It’s all about lawyer shoes.

It seems that there is an attorney in Florida, Michael Robb, who wears an old pair of black shoes whenever he has to try a case. His shoes are unpolished and look to be the wrong size. More than that, he typically stands at sidebar with one foot raised off the floor so that jurors can get a good look at the soles of his shoes, which have holes in them!

Why does he do this?

lawyer shoes with holes

Fig. 1. Lawyer shoes

Aren’t lawyers supposed to look sharp? Don’t clients and colleagues rank them higher in the overall scheme of things if they wear natty pinstripe suits and polished shoes?

You would think so.

But in this case, the lawyer had a reason. At least that is what his opponent alleged in a lawsuit against this man! Yes, this guy was sued by his opponent who claimed that the lawyer wore the musty old shoes with the holes in the soles for the express purpose of getting the jurors to sympathize with him. In a “Motion to Compel Defense Counsel To Wear Appropriate Shoes,” the plaintiff claimed that Robb was trying to gain an unfair advantage over him by appearing to be poor, so poor that he could not afford to polish his shoes or repair the soles.

Lawyers will get a kick out of this. The complaint alleges, in part, that “It is well known in the legal community that Michael Robb, Esquire, wears shoes with holes in the soles when he is in trial.” It goes on to state, “Upon reasonable belief, Plaintiff believes that Mr. Robb wears these shoes as a ruse to impress the jury and make them believe that Mr. Robb is humble and simple without sophistication.”

The plaintiff further states, “Part of this strategy is to present Mr. Robb and his client as modest individuals who are so frugal that Mr. Robb has to wear shoes with holes in the soles. Mr. Robb is known to stand at sidebar with one foot crossed casually beside the other so that the holes in his shoes are readily apparent to the jury.

Adlai Stevenson with a hole in his shoe

Fig. 2. Adlai Stevenson with a hole in his shoe

“Then, during argument and throughout the case Mr. Robb throws out statements like, ‘I’m just a simple lawyer,’ with the obvious suggestion that Plaintiff’s counsel and the Plaintiff are not as sincere and down to earth as Mr. Robb.”

Seeking relief, the plaintiff begged the court to compel Mr. Robb to change his shoes! “Mr. Robb should be required to wear shoes without holes in the soles at trial to avoid the unfair prejudice suggested by this conduct.”

The judge, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele, denied the motion. Plaintiff’s lawyer, Bill Bone, then offered to buy Robb a new pair of shoes.

Robb refused the offer.

“I’ve been practicing law for twenty-one years,” he said, “and Mr. Bone thinks he’s finally cracked the key to my success?” He laughed at the idea, sarcastically comparing himself to Michael Jordan. He said he was going to stop using the shoes in court, but that plaintiff’s motion convinced him to keep using them.

Upon doing a little research it turns out that this is not the first instance of an attorney or a politician using this tactic. Adlai Stevenson was notorious for wearing shoes with holes in them (Fig. 2). Even President Obama has been photographed with holes in the soles of his shoes.

All this goes to show that you have to be careful when you’re a political or image consultant. You can’t just assume that looking good, or new, or spiffy, will translate into success. You need to dig a little deeper and think a little harder than the next guy.

This is precisely what we do at Manhattan Makeovers. We take nothing on face value. We look beneath the surface and sometimes recommend that attorneys and witnesses wear something that may not be perfectly new or neat.

The next time you’re wondering what to wear to court, or to a political convention, give us a call and we’ll be glad to share some of our other findings about what is effective for the professional.