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One Shoe At Work, One Heel At Home: What Flats Say About Working Women

Mary Janes, loafers, and ballet flats have all become essential pieces on our Pinterest boards, replacing heeled shoes. But what does this tell us about today’s gender roles in comparison to other trends like the #tradwife TikTok phenomenon?

The flat shoe trend and women in the workplace.
Credit: Shutterstock/G-Stock Studio

Mary Janes, loafers, and ballet flats have all become essential pieces on our Pinterest boards, replacing heeled shoes. But is this only an aesthetic choice? Or does it say something more about today’s gender roles?

Fashion and Identity

Fashion has always been a form of expression for women. From Flappers taking control of gender roles by cutting their hair to women in the 1940s wearing trousers to fight for their right to work in industrial sectors, women have always used clothing to express themselves.

In 2023, this is no different. The return of the flat shoe is not only an aesthetic choice but a representation of the shifting roles of women. The replacement of traditionally feminine heeled shoes with flat shoes emphasizes the role of the 21st-century woman as a worker and caregiver. One cannot take the kids to school and rush to the office in high heels without breaking something!

Professional feminine flat shoes to take over the workplace.
Fun, Professional, and Comfortable. The essence of the flat shoe. Credit: Le Monde Beryl

A study by Lean In on Women in the Workplace shows that Women have become more ambitious after the Pandemic, proving that changes in fashion or shoe, preferences are no coincidence.

” 9 in 10 women ages 30 and under want to be promoted to the next level, and 3 in 4 aspire to become senior leaders.”

Lean In, 2023 Women In The Workplace Key Findings

Taking Over The Workplace One Shoe At A Time

As mentioned, fashion has always accompanied women in their journey towards equality, and 2023 is no exception.

The fashion industry has created three iconic shoes that will accompany women in their rise in the workplace: The Loafer, Mary Janes, and Ballet Shoes. Three timeless styles that can replace heels in any situation and with any outfit. For instance, fashion designer Tessa Vermeulen wore Chanel flats to her wedding in July 2023.

In fact, flat shoes are sustainable due to their extensive uses and timeless aesthetic.

However, what is interesting is how fashion designers like Chanel and Celine have remodeled flat shoes to capture the essence of femininity in a professional environment.

Professional feminine flat shoes to take over the workplace.
Hand Painted Women’s Loafers, Credit: Duke and Dexter Official Site

This is best exemplified by the loafer. A traditionally male style adapted by Celine to flatter the female figure. Likewise, other fashion brands like Duke and Dexter have added decorative elements to give the shoe a more feminine feel.

Thus, the feminization of masculine pieces represents the increasing feminine presence in the workplace and the desire of women to increase it.

#TradWife VS #Flats

Another reason behind the resurgence of the flat shoe trend is linked to the TikTok #tradwife trend.

An example of the Romanticization of the #tradwife image.

This TikTok trend is romanticizing the notion of the ‘Traditional Wife’. The stay-at-home woman whose ambitions in the workplace are replaced by their domestic duties. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting to dedicate your life to your home and your family, this trend is giving way to radical #tradwives to propagate patriarchal ideas during a time when women are actually more ready than ever to join the workforce at leadership levels.

Hence, the parallel trend of the flat shoe seems to be the fashion industry’s way of redirecting women towards the working path that they have shown such an interest in.

As mentioned, 9 in 10 women have shown a keenness to rise through the ranks in the workforce, yet TikTok trends do not romanticize this journey but rather the opposite lifestyle, which could promote misogynistic values. The only way in which Gen Z actively engages with this increasingly ambitious behavior on social media is through fashion, and the #flatshoe trend is the most popular at the moment.

@lifewithjazzzz

Four of my favorite classes & professional flat options for the office 🥿 You can find all details linked in my LTK under @ lifewithjazz #workwear #styleinspo #businesscasual #classicstyle #officeoutfit #officeshoes

♬ Pretty Girls Walk – Big Boss Vette
A few examples of office-appropriate flat shoes.

Bridging Both Spheres

The popularity of flat shoes can also be explained by their ability to bridge the working and domestic world.

Its comfortability, professional aesthetic, and timelessness make it the perfect embodiment of the ability of women to exist in these two spheres without having to sacrifice one for the other, without having to sacrifice comfort for femininity. Both lifestyles can coexist, and the flat shoe is one of the many ways to accomplish this.

So get yourself a pair of flat shoes and prepare to take over the world one shoe at a time!


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