Clothing and footwear etiquette can be a bit of a minefield if you aren’t in the know. Items that might seem acceptable to wear to you are often big problems in an office environment. None more so than Birkenstock shoes and sandals. Are Birkenstocks business casual or should you wear something smarter into the office when smart casual wear is the dress code?
Hopefully, I can help you navigate the professional footwear code having spent more than twenty years working in a corporate environment for a major energy company. During my time in the workplace, I learned exactly what was acceptable to wear and what wasn’t.
Whilst dress codes may appear to have changed since COVID that doesn’t mean the words business casual have. So here is what you need to know about wearing Birkenstocks shoes and sandals in the workplace.
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Can You Wear Birkenstocks at Work?
So let’s start with a basic question. Are Birkenstocks acceptable to wear at work?
Well, this totally depends on the workplace that you are in and where you are working.
I currently am self-employed and work in a home office. That means if I want to wear Birkenstocks, flip flops, or jeans when I am working I am totally free to do so. I get to choose what I wear which mostly is based on comfort and the weather.
If I had to go into an office and mix with other people the situation may change. In some working environments especially in the creative industries the styles and dress codes are far more casual than in the corporate world. Usually, you can take your cues from those around you as to what is acceptable to wear. Typically in creative industries, unless you are customer-facing Birkenstocks, sneakers and even flip-flops may be accepted as day-to-day attire.
This is a totally different matter when it comes to corporate companies, sales roles, and customer-facing environments. In these workplaces, there is no chance that Birkenstocks would be allowed in the office. The same goes for jeans, t-shirts, and other casual clothes. In these places suits with formal shoes or at the very least business casual wear is the only acceptable form of attire acceptable.
Can Birkenstocks Be Smart Casual?
The confusion about what to wear when companies state their dress code is smart casual is because the two words are the complete opposite of each other. Some people hear smart and dress too formally whilst others hear the word casual and think they can turn up to work looking like they have been on the beach for the day.
I like to think of the term as meaning less formal than normal. Less formal doesn’t mean that you can wear completely casual clothes but you can loosen up the dress code a little.
This means that instead of wearing closed-toe lace-up shoes or high heels for women you might find that men might wear boat shoes or loafers and women wear ballet pumps, loafers, or ankle boots.
When it comes to clothes men may wear chinos, a smart shirt and a blazer whilst women might wear blouses with dress pants or dresses that are at the knee or below (never floor length).
Birkenstocks, flip-flops, and sneakers are most definitely not smart casual when it comes to footwear and as such, they should never be worn in a more formal office environment.
Wearing Birkenstocks As Office Attire?
Birkenstock shoes and sandals are only office attire in a business environment where there is a totally casual dress code.
Are Birkenstocks business casual or smart casual? Well, the answer is absolutely not. Professional environments even in these more casual times require classy, stylish, and classic clothing and footwear.
Even when it is the summer months don’t think that you can get away with wearing them in a more formal office.
Is It Unprofessional To Wear Sandals At Work?
The fact is that if you are in a formal office environment even dressier sandals are not considered to meet the business casual dress code.
If you can see any part of your toes when you are wearing your footwear then they shouldn’t be worn in a corporate environment.
Sandals are however perfectly acceptable in less formal workplaces. Once again you need to judge what type of workplace you are going to be working in.
Don’t be tempted to push the boundaries when you know that you shouldn’t as a manager is likely to take you to one side and ask you to improve what you are wearing. This is not only embarrassing but marks you out as someone who doesn’t fit in making it less likely for you to be highly regarded or promoted.
What Shoes are Appropriate for Business Casual?
Are Birkenstocks business casual? Well, I think I have established that they aren’t but here are some shoes that I believe would be perfect to wear as business casual in the office rather than wearing Birkenstocks.
These Cole Hann mens loafers are a great example of a more casual shoe for men than traditional lace-ups. Made from leather they are still smart enough to be worn in the office. Loafers give a slightly preppy look but there are classic and stylish as well.
Boat shoes are also relatively popular for business casual wear provided they are smart looking and made be a good brand. These dark brown shoes would be perfectly acceptable for men to wear on a smart casual day with chinos and a blazer.
Loafers are also great business casual wear for women. These black leather loafers are perfect for smart casual office wear paired with some dressy pants.
Leather ballet flats are another great solution to the smart casual footwear dilemma for women. They are comfortable to wear but also classy and stylish enough to wear in an office environment.
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