Toeing the Line

Christian Louboutin nude peep-toe shoes

The big new issue facing female lawyers today: Peep-toe shoes.

Yes, the legal blogs are in a tizzy over the question of whether women should or should not wear peep-toe shoes to court, because said shoes may be “provocative.” (To which I say: Better provocative clothing items, please). As is the case whenever women’s work attire is brought up, there is no consensus on what is or isn’t appropriate. Some judges think it’s fine if women wear peep-toe pumps — they wear peep-toes too! Some other judges think it’s inappropriate! Some people on the internet think toes are too sexy to be shown! Some people on the internet think it’s ok to wear peep-toes, but not full-frontal (full frontal!) open-toes! Some people on the internet worked with This One Woman who wore this one Totally Inappropriate Sexy Thing! Some people on the internet think I should make them a sandwich! Other people on the internet think this whole conversation is inane!

…and I am in that last camp. If you are spending hours of your life arguing that women should not wear peep-toe shoes to court or to the office, I would suggest taking up a hobby, or perhaps volunteering somewhere. You will never get those hours of your life back! You could have spent them playing with puppies (I hear the ASPCA does good work), and instead you were debating the relative provocativeness of toenails as compared to toe-cleavage. Because, really, women in the law have bigger issues to worry about than whether another attorney or a juror or a commenter on Above the Law is going to think we’re unprofessional floozies who “risk losing credibility and respect” because our toenail polish is visible.

Bigger issues like, “Can I wear a sleeveless top to the office when it is 105 degrees outside?” (Answer: No. Says the lady in the sleeveless top).

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23 comments for “Toeing the Line

  1. Gembird
    August 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    But Jill, this is a very serious issue! Teh Menz ™ can’t do their manly work when silly ladies are flashing their toes all the time. Toes are way too arousing and inappropriate for the workplace.

    Seriously though, I don’t get why people are actually discussing this like it’s an issue. I understand why I’m not allowed to wear peep-toe shoes to work, because it’s never a good idea to have bare toes in a research lab, but if it’s not a safety issue for other people what’s the big deal?

    I realise I’m creating some kind of irony black hole by posting this, but whatever.

  2. Kara
    August 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Oh, thank every deity for my casual-dress office, where I generally stroll in wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. And super gaudy nailpolish. And often kick off my flip-flops so I can sit cross-legged in my task chair.

    I guess computer programmers are way more immune to the hypnotic power of women’s feet then lawyers are.

  3. K__
    August 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Peep toe shoes were an issue with our dress code at work this summer. Same hand-wringing over it.

    It went against dress code to wear peep toe shoes but in practice this was never strictly enforced unless foot safety was an issue in certain departments.

    Parent company eased up this year. You can now wear peep toe shoes to work in areas where it wasn’t enforced to begin with…
    As long as the toe opening is less than 2 inches wide.
    This measurement is part of the dress code.

  4. August 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    to take the other side, i think it IS important to know and prepare for what judges and jurors think. when i’m in the courtroom, i’m not their own my own behalf, i’m there representing a client. if the judge hates peep toes for some unfathomable reason, i don’t want that dislike being transferred to my client and prejudicing their case. because the people i represent are generally already disfavored by the judge, i think it’s important to make the best possible impression – and if that means wearing closed toe shoes, demure nail polish and a french twist, then that’s what i do. (says the girl who peels off the pantyhose while driving back to the office.)

  5. roses
    August 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I wear sleeveless tops under jackets to the office in the summer because it may be hot outside but A/C means it is always cool in here. “Dressy sandals” are appropriate according to the dress code so I do wear open toed shoes, although occasionally people (men) have expressed disapproval of them.

  6. AnonymousCoward
    August 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    The continuing vapidity of the legal profession is a shame to behold. Yes, some judges are sexist, or racist, or homophobic, or transphobic, and on and on and on. The correct approach for the Bar to take is not to hold discussions of how to appease folks on the bench with irrational prejudices; it’s to excoriate those who have those prejudices for violating their oaths of office. Any judge who admits that they consider, even for a moment, the physical appearance of an attorney before the court needs to be loudly rebuked for their behavior. Anything less is an abrogation of the law’s obligation to seek the right answer, regardless of a party’s popularity or conformance with arbitrary stereotypes.

    Yes, juries are more difficult, in the sense that they aren’t professionals who have the same kind of ethical obligations, but how can we expect them to decide cases on the merits when judges can’t even do so?

  7. Samantha b.
    August 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    You know, there is a not un-small amount of irony to the issuing of a manifesto on superficial impressions in an impossibly small font.

  8. Haley
    August 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Footwear is a very important issue in the workplace! If a person works as a welder, peep-toe shoes would be very inappropriate.

    Oh wait practical and safety concerns aren’t the issue here? Then I’m a bit confused…

    I’d also love to know when so many men developed a shoe fetish. I thought heterosexual men were supposed to not care about shoes, but now they find toe cleavage sexy?

  9. Bonn
    August 5, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I teach. For me, my job description requires a lot of sitting at a table and rolling on the floor with kids (not literally, but you get what I mean). In kids lessons, shoes are not worn.

    Our dress code requires, in the footwear department, that socks and stockings must be worn at all times. No open-toed shoes, sandals, or boots. Keep in mind I am either sitting at a table or not wearing shoes about 90% of the time I’m at work. WHO CARES WHAT SHOES I WEAR??

    I also cannot wear sleeveless shirts or dresses or pants that hit anywhere above the ankle, and I must always wear a jacket. Apparently any deviation from this will impair my ability to speak English or be taken seriously. Never mind that a good chunk of my male students won’t take me seriously anyhow because I have a vagina.

  10. Tori
    August 5, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    …unprofessional floozies who “risk losing credibility and respect” because our toenail polish is visible.

    I have to ask: Can one wear peep toe shoes with unpolished toenails?

  11. Alice
    August 5, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    In my jurisdiction, women regularly wear peep toes, complete open toe strap shoes (can you tell I’m not a shoe person?), even dressy sandals in the summer.

    I went to a professional event for women lawyers recently where a female Judge was the guest speaker. She was talking about a time when she was still practicing, and had to run to court without notice. She was horrified that she had worn pants that day as only skirts were acceptable on women lawyers at the time. At the end of her motion, the Judge looked at her and said, “nice pantsuit”. Totally patronizing, but she survived. Her message to us was to remember that the Judge’s sit higher up than us and may be able to see down our shirts.

    There is no way a Judge is going to comment on my peep toes and frankly if anyone has a problem the can damn well get over it. I also represent people generally disfavoured by the Judge at the outset, so I have enough on my plate without giving a damn about my feet.

  12. August 6, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Is there a reason that the alt-text for the image included with the post, “louboutin-nude-peep-toe-shoes,” declares the colour of nude skin to be a peachish tone often associated with the skin colour of white people? It feels rather…problematic, to say the least.

  13. Tracey
    August 6, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I really don’t appreciate this issue being made light of. Women need to learn how to dress in a manner that is not to masculine, but not really feminine, flattering, but not to attention grabbing, pretty and flirty, but serious. I am disgusted by the number of women I see wearing pants suits to work, I mean for goodness sakes look like a woman!!! And then, the women who wear skirt suits, I mean, how does anyone take them seriously?
    And peep-toes shoes are out of the question. They remind people of boob cleaveage and butt-cracks. The proper shoes for a woman in an office setting are sensible bussiness shoes with a heel, but not to high a heel. Leave the flats for around the house wear and the high heels for the nightclub.
    Just remember, men are to be taken seriously, but women to be looked at. So guys, forget ever wearing anything short or open toed shoes, and ladies try to look pretty b/c not looking demure and polished shows unprofessionalism (but not to pretty b/c that shows a lack of professionalism).

  14. August 6, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Wow, people have a lot of time on their hands!

  15. August 6, 2010 at 8:35 am

    as a law student, it frustrates the *#%((%% out of me that there is SO MUCH policing of women lawyers. i understand and am fine with the need for a highly professional appearance – it’s not US on the line in court, it’s our clients – and to dress unprofessionally so we’re not taken seriously hurts THEM (and as a future public defender, that’s the last thing i want to do).

    that said, if you want to enter an angry rage, i recommend you search out the comment sections for many of these articles – all of the blame is focused on women for dressing “too sexy, so the poor partner got distracted!” it’s just being used as an excuse to police women. and the worst part? most of the women i know in school are fine with it. vomit.

  16. ACG
    August 6, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Is there a reason that the alt-text for the image included with the post, “louboutin-nude-peep-toe-shoes,” declares the colour of nude skin to be a peachish tone often associated with the skin colour of white people?

    Because that’s what Christian Louboutin named that color on that shoe.

  17. Alara Rogers
    August 6, 2010 at 11:16 am

    It seems to me that there is a simple solution for the problem “women are too sexy and are distracting the male lawyers/judges/juries”.

    Since men are incompetent to practice law when they are distracted by sexual stimuli, but women are not, let’s forbid men to practice law. No male lawyers, no male judges, and if we *must* have men on juries, well, at least they will find the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer equally distracting.

    Alternately, why are male law students not receiving adequate training in not being distracted? Ideally, all law professors should be highly attractive women dressed in extremely scanty clothes, and when males fail their classes because they were too busy looking at the prof and not paying attention to her words, they will be disqualified from the bar. Only the men who successfully manage to do their job despite the “distraction” of attractive women should be permitted to do *any* job that requires brains. Or concentration. Or, honestly, anything (I mean, even flipping burgers could get you badly burned if you were easily distractible.)

    Okay, but seriously, why does anyone, ever, present the argument “the sexy appearance of the woman distracted the man” in the context of *WOMEN* shouldn’t be present doing a job? Any person who is so easily distracted by *anyone’s* appearance that they can’t do their job needs to be fired. I can’t comprehend why it is supposed to be women’s problem that men are too flighty and distractible to be trusted in the workplace; either men are serious workers who can get over a distraction like “omigod an open toe!”, or they don’t belong on the job. Why are we coddling incompetence by suggesting that women need to bend over backwards to avoid distracting men at work (or in school), rather than suggesting that distractions happen and a man who will pay attention to a lawyer’s open toe shoe rather than the case in front of him is a man who will pay attention to a fellow driver’s cleavage in the car next to him and will end up ramming into the car in front of him as a result? Distractible men don’t belong on the job, on the road, or anywhere but in their homes, safe from distraction. I mean, maybe they could work in porn, where being so easily aroused by and obsessed with sexual stimulus would be an advantage, but otherwise, if they really, seriously cannot control their distraction around sexual stimuli as mild as an open-toe shoe, they don’t belong in the professional workforce.

    Of course, I’m being sarcastic, because I know they *can* control themselves. Removing the male privilege excuse of “I was distracted by an attractive female body” and making that actually a liability on the job that could get you fired for incompetence would probably result in a dramatic wave of male professionalism! Men are human beings and can control themselves when they want to, and when they think they have to. So how about making it on them to control themselves instead of on women to avoid distracting them?

  18. FashionablyEvil
    August 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Is it just me, or if lawyers have enough time on their hands to be wailing and gnashing their teeth over the horror of peep toe shoes that maybe they don’t have enough to do?

  19. Tracey
    August 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Alara Rogers,
    Your comment doesn’t make sense b/c men are more rational than women and therefore better capable of practicing law. They have greater emotional control, are better under pressure, and are better at analyzing situations and coming up with solutions. You see, “Real Men” are like Superman and women are kryptonite. You don’t remove Superman, you remove the kryptonite. So, that explains how otherwise strong rational creatures could become distracted by toe cleaveage, or just fail to function where women are present. Plus, it is biology, men evolved to be obsessed with women’s toes, that is just the way it is, SCIENCE!!!!1!!!!

  20. Mandolin
    August 7, 2010 at 5:55 am

    “Because that’s what Christian Louboutin named that color on that shoe.”

    Right–although that just pushes the racism of calling the shoe color “nude” one layer back. I mean, I get that you’re pointing out that Jill was responding to an external fact (the shoe color name), but that doesn’t really get to the essence of the complaint that defining “nude” as “pinkish” decenters brown people.

  21. August 7, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    FashionablyEvil: Is it just me, or if lawyers have enough time on their hands to be wailing and gnashing their teeth over the horror of peep toe shoes that maybe they don’t have enough to do?  

    Well, a lot of lawyers DON’T have enough to do right now, because the legal market sucks and a lot of people are out of a job.

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