Friday, January 20, 2017

Ultra-Conservative Interview Shoes for the Junior Professional


In the coming months, I'll be interviewing at a few biglaw firms, as the impending post-clerkship transition makes this an ideal time to explore the job market. I have particular ideas about how one should dress for interviews, which I believe apply to all attorney jobs (clerkship, government, law firm, most public interest). While I enjoy pushing the dress code envelope as much as I can in my day-to-day life at the office (and do so with, say, Vans leather slip-ons at work and super-slouchy sweaters), adherence to conservative business formal dress code rules is necessary for certain occasions, i.e. court appearances and interviews.

For shoes, I have especially nitpicky criteria in mind, some of which are admittedly not universal, and are instead based largely on my own idiosyncratic preferences. The "total package" of my rules may be excessively stuffy by some standards. In no particular order, my ideal interview shoe is:
  • (1) matte leather, not patent, mostly because patent leather is more prone to scuffing, but also partially because of a possibly outdated view that matte leather may be more professional; 
  • (2) a less than 3'' heel, generally around 2.5'' for me, given my clumsiness in heels; 
  • (3) a "regular" heeled pump with a not overly thin stiletto heel, not a wedge; 
  • (4) as much as possible, without extra embellishments like bows or buckles, though a subtle detail like that is ultimately fine; and 
  • (5) while negotiable, likely has an almond toe or, at least, a not-too-pointy toe as I find overly pointy toe boxes uncomfortable and sometimes odd looking with skirt suits.

The last item is not as much of an issue now. I feel like today's pointy toe shoes are generally less dramatic than when I was last looking for a pair of interview heels in 2008-ish. Other rules or guidelines, such as a not-overly low vamp to avoid extremely obvious "toe cleavage" probably also apply, but typically aren't an issue with shoes that meet the other, somewhat "frumpy"-leaning criteria.

That being said, I don't always practice what I preach. I've done maybe half of my legal job interviews in non-compliant shoes. I still own one pair, a patent leather Naturalizer pump with bow detail and stitching all over that mimicked a quilted texture (similar without quilting). It's not as dramatic as it sounds. and I got my summer associateship in those, but they are certainly not compliant. I definitely interviewed for my current clerkship in a pair of suede Cole Haan wedges with a bow detail and patent toe cap (similar in all-matte leather). Things worked out despite how formal these interviews were, which suggests that my criteria for interview shoes are overly restrictive. Everyone who chimed in on my recent post thought my patent wedges were fine for the office (yay!), which I definitely agree with. Sometimes, I get self-conscious because I may be the only junior associate I know who relies solely on wedges when I want to wear shoes with some height. Thus, I'm still in the market for a pair of pumps that fits my criteria for these interviews and future possible court days.

I've posted before about shopping for interview clothing as a student on a fairly restrictive budget, with shoe suggestions. (A few classmates in biglaw have road-tested the Payless Karmen pump for both comfort and durability and are satisfied.) This time around, I'm looking at a higher price point, one that might make sense for a more well-established young professional in a conservative field, who is a few years into their career. Actually identifying which pair looks best and is comfortable enough for at least a business day's worth of normal walking and standing will likely take at least a bit of trying on (indoors) and sending things back.

First up is a few different options from Cole Haan, at two price points (all shoes pictured above in order, clockwise from top left and linked below). The Cole Haan Grace Grand is fairly pricey but has more padding for comfort (last year's version is discounted at 6PM, but has synthetic instead of leather lining). The Cole Haan Clara (almond toe) or Juliana (pointy toe) are at a more typical Cole Haan price point. The Rockport Total Motion shoes have a pointier toe, as do the Sam Edelman Tristan and well-reviewed Michael Michael Kors Flex. I may start with the Sam Edelman Tristans and maybe the Cole Haan Clara and go from there.


P.S., when shoe shopping, I like looking at Zappos for whether they stock the shoe I have in mind. They often do a video with one of their employees wearing each style they carry, which gives one a better sense of what it looks like on.

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