Are Sandals Business Casual? Here’s How to Dress Up Your Sandals for the Office

In the eyes of many, sandals still weigh far heavier on the casual side of the style scales than the business side and are not accepted as business casual. But will they always be bound by a casual aesthetic and carefree association, or can you simply style them differently and tip the scales? We certainly think that the scales can be tipped, but we can clearly see that it’s not going to be simple. Understanding what makes it so complex, though, may help! 

Understanding What Makes Sandals Frowned Upon Footwear for the Office

If sandals feel frowned upon in your office, it’s important first and foremost to identify whether or not it comes down to dress code, as many office dress codes call for professional and polished closed toe shoes. In contrast, many businesses in today’s world can be seen adopting more casual dress codes, but nonetheless still frowning upon sandals thanks to: 

  • The wrong styles of sandals being worn. Loud sandals (whether it be the sound of them smacking up against your feet or clunking down to the ground), sandals with only thong-style straps and flimsy plastic foam or rubber sandals that look like they belong in the sand and water at the beach surely don’t belong at the office. 
  • Sandals being worn at the wrong time. Sandals may be okay for days when you have your feet tucked away under your desk, but when it comes to things like meetings and important lunches, sandals still aren’t super accepted.
  • Feet having a bad reputation. Feet are notoriously one of the “grossest” parts of the body and have a reputation for being dirty. Even if you pamper yours, you can never guarantee that others are doing the same unless they LOOK like they’re pampering them. If somebody is not obviously practicing self-care and proper maintenance on their feet, then catching a glimpse of their ingrown toenails or a whiff of their foot odor can create an uncomfortable environment for everyone.
  • Exposing skin that doesn’t look like it was prepared to be exposed. While an excessive amount of exposed skin anywhere on the body is considered unprofessional, it hits extra hard when it looks like that exposed part wasn’t intended to be shown. From looking like you’re slipping out of your shirt simply because it’s cut too low to looking like you had to take off your pumps and slip into sandals at the last second simply because your toenails aren’t done, people tend to feel embarrassed or vulnerable for you when they think this might be the case.

There’s a lot to combat when it comes to incorporating sandals into your office ensembles favorably and fashionably, but knowing exactly what to fight has led us to the following tips — and may even help you form your own! 

Are Sandals Business Casual

Pick Something Functional 

There’s a reason why comfortable work shoes for women tend to boast non-slip tread, anti-odor insoles, easily cleaned or polished materials and light weights — because you shouldn’t have to compromise your work to accommodate your shoes. This is especially true when it comes to any styles that you like to rock most. If you can prove that they don’t affect your work or your professional image, then there is less likely to be any issue around them. 

Prioritize Quality Features and Fashionable Details

Quality features like thick or double stitching, anti-slip outsoles, low heels, cushioned insoles and materials like leather and suede are going to elevate almost any sandal style into something more polished and professional — because, who wears fancy shiny black leather sandals with a slight heel to have fun in the water or relax in the sand on the beach? These types of features showcase that your sandals were meant for something more formal! 

Fashionable details like ankle straps, embellishments (think rhinestones, pearls, decorative stitching and embroidery), toes in exaggerated shapes and fancy materials like silk and velvet will exaggerate the fact that your sandals were intended to be worn here — not only that, but worn with a nicer outfit. As if that wasn’t enough, details like this are also likely to be what take your comfortable sandals from stylish and appropriate to the star piece of your whole ensemble. 

Put Your Best Foot Forward 

For starters, your best foot will undoubtedly be a clean one. Maintaining proper hygiene in this area means cleaning dirt away thoroughly, scrubbing dead skin and calluses away gently, keeping nails trimmed to a good length and making sure to clean under the nails. As a result, odors and infections will be kept at bay, too.

From here, you’ll want to take your clean foot and transform it into an obviously pampered one. Finishing touches like a nice coat of polish or even a full-on pedicure will scream “I’m pampered and have been prepared just for this moment!” 

Foot Forward

Remember to Make Sure Your Styling Choices Look Intentional 

It’s been noted above as the driving force behind most of our tips, but in case you missed it: Make sure your sandals look like they were chosen intentionally for that outfit and for your office; otherwise, you run the risk of looking like you don’t own any other shoes. 

To make your sandals and the styling choices around them look as intentional as possible, we suggest that — along with picking the most polished and professional sandals you can — you also try to incorporate a couple of other pieces that have a subtle beachy vibe or summer style. For instance, you could translate your beach tote into a more office-appropriate style by opting for a large leather tote bag and adding it to your outfit, translate your beach wrap into a longer and flowier style of cardigan and add it or simply add your sparkly sunshine earrings!