Is It Ever Acceptable For Your Workplace To Require You To Wear High Heels?

Antiquated? Sexist? Appropriate? ... The ELLE Team give their take

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Nicola Thorp, a 27-year-old temping receptionist, was sent home without pay for turning up at PwC in December wearing flats.

It transpired that Portico, the temping firm that had commissioned her for PwC reception duties that day, had regulations requiring her to be wearing a two-inch to four-inch heel. 

Ms Thorp questioned Portico's decision to send her home, asking why a nine hour shift, on her feet, escorting clients to meeting rooms, would benefit from heel height and also enquiring as to whether men were also issued with the same set of regulations.

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She didn't, however, receive any answers and was sent home without further explanation.

The news story has sparked a fierce debate in the ELLE office, with Editor-in-Chief Lorraine Candy and Fashion Director extraordinaire Anne-Marie Curtis both vociferating on the topic. 

At a fashion magazine we are all, of course, required to look a certain way so that our clients and readers see us as brand ambassadors, but the emphasis is very much on looking stylish - whatever our own take on that might be - as opposed to having to wear high heels.

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In fact, as flats are very much de-rigueur at the moment, with so many different brands designing chicer and chicer variations of the flat shoe, there are very few of us in the ELLE office with heels on at all. 

(See for yourself here on What ELLE Wears)

With the debate reaching a fiery intensity, we thought we'd share some key opinions from among the ELLE Team.

Lorraine Candy, Editor-In-Chief

'Why, in the year 2016, are we still battling for such basic equality? It is insane that this kind of blatant sexism is still making news.

We have a woman running for President in the US, the world's foremost economist is a woman, women are rising to positions of power in governments globally, so why an employer felt it was acceptable to ask a female employee to wear a heel is a disappointingly old fashioned and outdated attitude.

It's also bad for business.

We are 51 per cent of the population, we deserve equal treatment to our male colleagues in all areas of work and life. Being in possession of a womb instead of a penis should not dictate footwear choices in the workplace.'

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Anne-Marie Curtis, Fashion Director

'I just think the whole heels as 'uniform' thing feels very old fashioned now. Sure, wear teetering stilettos or towering platforms if you want, when you want…or spend the majority of your waking hours in flats like most women (especially in fashion) do these days. But to be told to wear them as part of conforming to an outdated idea of how women should look. I think not.'

Natasha Bird, Digital Content Editor

During my time at a national newspaper - I won't say which, but it's Googleable, so have at it - we were basically required to dress like '50s housewives. Heels and skirts were the expectation. As a quiet(ish) recent graduate hoping to make it as a journalist, I was in no position to argue, but I have often thought about why, precisely, it was that dressing like that helped us do our jobs.

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I respect an organisation's right to request formality, of course. Especially if you are at all likely to come into contact with the firm's clients or competitors, or even just to help you step, psychologically, into the workplace mindset, but high heels aren't the only formal shoe out there.

And in certain fields, high heels aren't just impractical, they're downright dangerous - that we still expect our air stewardesses, in charge of our safety in an emergency, to wear unsafe footwear, is mind-boggling.

They're there to look after us, not to look pretty for the boys.

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Rachael Evans, Bookings Editor & Eva Pineda, Productions and Bookings Assistant

Both Eva and Rachael used to work in the same big, British (posh) department store and lamented the same thing:

Eva: 'When I used to work in [big department store], all the women had to be in heels for their whole shift. Being on your feet for eight hours in heels was ridiculous and I hated it. I don't think you should be made to wear heels at all at the workplace, especially if it's not practical!' 

Rachael remembers it being even worse: 'No roots in our dyed hair, we had to wear pearl earrings and studs, as well as black heels even though we were standing on our feet all day. In theory I agree with having a dress code, but that was enforced in a way that was way too harsh.'

Joely Walker, Beauty Editor

'I was constantly told off at school for wearing ‘too high’ heels and too much make-up. I was even put on an appearance report card (yes, a real thing) whereby I had to stand in front of the whole class and get my uniform and face ‘checked,' which was mortifying and highly unnecessary.

Now, as Beauty Editor for ELLE, both make-up and shoes are an important part of my job. So perhaps my teachers shouldn’t have come down so hard on me – or anyone else - for trying to differentiate my personal style in a sea of mossy green blazers. (Although ironically I now avoid heels like the plague and live in flat boots).'

So, basically, here's what we think of your high heels requirement:

Images: ELLE, Giphy, GETTY 

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