One of the most common descriptions of sandals is an open design of footwear that is made up of a sole that is secured to the foot of the wearer by straps that go over the instep and even the ankle in some cases. Sandals are popularly worn for outdoor casual occasions such as beach trips, festivals, backyard barbecues, and trips to the store, but there has been an increase in the variety of sandals worn in more formal settings such as places of worship. As a result, it is not out of the ordinary to wonder if they are indeed business casual and if you can get away with wearing them to work.
Are sandals business casual? Whether or not sandals are business casual and consequently appropriate for work will entirely depend on the rules and regulations regarding dressing at your place of work.
Some places of work usually require that employees wear closed-toe shoes that are formal, which means that sandals will not be appropriate. On the contrary, other workplaces are more lenient and will allow workers to wear more casual footwear such as sandals. Some styles of sandals that you may be able to pull off as business casual include:
- Slingbacks – These are sandals that have a strap that goes around the ankle, hence the name.
- Mules – Mules can either be heeled or flats. The heeled varieties are considered to be more elegant, hence can be considered to be business casual.
- Peep-toe sandals – These are sandals that are mostly heeled and cover most of the feet but leave the toes open.
Although the dress code in some workplaces today has become more relaxed and casual, there is still some controversy when it comes to whether sandals are appropriate. That being said, different designs of sandals vary when it comes to the appropriateness, with the more conservative ones become more acceptable as business casual informal settings.
Considerations when choosing business casual sandals
1. The design
There is a wide variety of sandal designs available, with some being more casual than others. Here are some designs that you may come across in business casual settings.
- Wedge sandals – These are sandals with a sole that is in the form of a wedge so that the same material serves as both the heel and sandal, which can be wood, cork, or even Perspex. They are a summer staple that can be effortlessly dressed up or down. For a business casual look, opt to wear a smart, plain, low wedge that does not have too much embellishment. They will keep your feet smart, cool, and comfortable, making for a pleasant work or event experience.
- Dress sandals – Dress sandals are great for fancy soirees, but you may find a more plain design that you can wear to work. To pull off a business casual look with dress sandals, you will want to pair them with wide-legged trousers to achieve a more streamlined appearance.
- Tip toe sandals – This is a chic sandal that features a pointed front. Some varieties feature a buckle, making it easy to make adjustments to the fit of the sandal. Many of them have a matte finish, and you can easily find one with a minimalistic design that you can wear in a business casual setting.
- Slingback sandals – As the name suggests, slingback sandals have a strap, which in most cases features a buckle system, which goes around the ankle. They can have pointed or rounded toes, and the back part is usually completely open. In a business casual setting, you will want to wear slingback sandals that have a low kitten heel and a pointed toe to achieve that semi-formal look.
- Peep-toe sandals – Peep-toe sandals typically leave the toes exposed when worn, with some designs providing more coverage for other parts of the foot. They are generally modest, making them ideal as business casual footwear.
- Mules – These are sandals that come in the form of heels, loafers, or flats. Flat mules are generally considered to be more suitable for casual settings, while heeled mules are more versatile, making them a great option for a business casual setting. Block heeled mules that have a slingback strap can be paired with dresses as well as trousers for a relaxed yet formal look.
- Flat sandals – Different designs of flat sandals have varying levels of acceptance in formal settings. A bare sandal is considered to be too casual for a business casual setting, while those that feature a buckle system and offer more coverage could be considered to be more suitable.
2. The color
The color of a sandal can help distinguish between a casual and business casual design.
- Nude tones and muted colors – Sandals that have a muted color are considered to be more ideal for wearing to a business casual setting. Consider a taupe, ash grey, or tan sandal as they can be paired with a variety of outfits due to their versatility. Neutral and nude tones are subtle, and they can make your legs appear longer than they are. Black sandals can be worn with virtually any outfit. Although earth tones are subtle, consider avoiding them as they are more likely to clash with your outfit. Consider pairing brown sandals with shades of beige, tan, brown, and darker earth tones. On the other hand, if you plan to wear white sandals, you will want to go for a pastel or neutral outfit.
- Bright colors – Bright sandals are great for casual settings, but you will want to generally avoid them when it comes to business casual settings as they tend to draw too much attention. Stay away from orange, red, bright yellow, neon green, bright red, or any other color that is believed to be too loud.
3. The comfort
Regardless of the footwear design, comfort is key. For a business casual setting, you want your sandals to look god on you, but this does not mean that you should sacrifice comfort and your health.
The insole of your sandal is one of the key determinants of how comfortable you will be in a business casual event. After all, this is the part of the footwear where your foot will rest on, so a quality insole is paramount. Memory foam insoles are comfortable and soft against your feet, and they will also mold to your foot shape easily. They are also known for their ability to resume to their original shape, so they are only compressed when you wear the sandals. Ortholite insoles are another great way to improve the comfort of your sandals for a business casual setting. Made from open-cell PU foam, ortholite insoles are efficient in absorbing moisture, consequently preventing the build-up of sweat.
The height of the heel of a sandal can also help you separate casual designs from those that are more official. Six-inch sandals are hardly appropriate for a business casual event, and they are also very hard on your feet. Opt to go for low block heels or kitten heels to be on the safe side.
When you have a setting that requires you wear specific styles of footwear, then you want to find ones that will serve you for several events. Therefore, it is important to go for business casual sandals that are durable. The material used in the construction of the sandal significantly affects its durability. Leather is very tough and long-lasting, making leather sandals some of the most durable out there. Suede is very durable as well, but it is relatively delicate as compared to leather and requires a lot of care. Sandals that are made of high-quality synthetic materials are also very durable, with many of them being waterproof and stain-resistant.
The construction of the sandal will also affect its durability. Stitched designs tend to last longer than varieties that are glued together, so you will want to avoid the latter.
When shopping for sandals that you intend to wear for a business casual event, you want to invest in a pair that will suit a variety of occasions, whether it is wearing them to work or a networking event. For men, closed-toe sandals that are dark are a great option, especially if you can pair them with both jeans and more official trousers. For women, the safest option is a pair of plain heels that are not too high as they will go well with trousers, skirts, and jeans. Menswear-inspired sandals are a great option as well but stay away from designs that are too open. For both women and men, designs that are too extravagant should always be avoided.
When selecting the design of sandals when the dressing code is business casual, you will want to avoid variants such as flip flops, high-heeled sandals, gladiator sandals, sliders, embellished sandals, lace sandals, and any other designs that are perceived to be too casual or fancy. Business casual sandals should be comfortable especially if you will be on your feet for extended periods, and they should also be versatile enough to allow you to pair them with a variety of outfits and wear them to a variety of events.