Thursday, 5 September 2013

Let's stop wearing painful things

Andy did like he was told, buffed those shoes to a high mirror shine. The guard simply didn't notice. Neither did I. I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?
- Red, The Shawshank Redemption

I work for a company that appreciates a professional physical appearance, but I arrive each morning wearing the childish pair of battered trainers that made my four and a half mile walk to work a happy one.

I used to think that the people around me left home each morning in an already impeccably professional state. They'd then maintain that state throughout the crush and flurry of the commute. But I was wrong: getting to work often requires a bit of recovery time if you’ve had a proper big commute, and sometimes this includes a cheeky little change of footwear.

A great place to notice this is Waterloo Bridge, which I potter over every morning. It's a sea of men and women in crisp suits with ironed sleeves (I've never quite mastered that one), but look below the ankles and it's a different story. Trainers and flip-flops everywhere, comfortably carrying their immaculately-dressed owners over miles of hard ground.

It'd be easy to find a feminist issue in this (but then, it'd be easy to find a feminist issue in Mondays or chicken or pirates, innit) - why do women wear shoes so uncomfortable that we can't actually wear them? But it's not about that. The below-the-ankle spectacle of rugged informality includes as many men as women. And it's not that our shoes are uncomfortable; it's just that they're not built for long walks across the city.

But we should walk to work. Or scuttle or stride or bound. Walking to work is a good thing. It should be encouraged. But changing your shoes at work is such an annoying little mini-hassle. Precious seconds are wasted. Seconds that could be spent waiting blankly for the computer to boot up while you eat a tictac.

Here are some suggestions:
  • Hiking boots in city offices. Given the continued rise of digital technology, offices can be so quiet these days; loud stomping will remedy this.
  • A no-shoe policy. Especially efficient in offices with hardwood floors, as skidding from one end of the room to the other can be the only way to grab a ringing phone before it stops. Nick Clegg may or may not have done this.
  • A no-office policy. Work could be conducted in venues that don't require the wearing of shoes, such as a swimming pool, a trampoline park, or a shoe shop.
  • A no-work policy. Then you wouldn't have to walk to it.
  • A stop-being-so-stupid policy. If your clothes hurt your body when you are walking across some ground, wear something else instead.

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