July 13, 2011

For the ladies who work (*Expanded version)

(You can walk or run all day in these pretty kitten heels, yes even at work. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCHU)

LET me begin this piece by saying that I have totally nothing against Havaianas. In fact, I own a few pairs of the reputable rubber flip-flops in different colors and styles as well, and I love the brand. But por jos por santo, do we have to wear it everywhere and in all occasions?

It just pains me to see women going to work—in a five-star hotel, or the bank, for instance—with their feet shod in Havaianas. The brand has attained such a high level of stature among brand-conscious Pinoys that we think it is sushal for us to wear these even to our places of employment! Sure, the girls will eventually change into their uniforms and their heels before they go to their posts, but I really find the practice much too much laidback. The moment they step into their work premises, they have no excuse to be wearing these rubber flip flops, kesehoda pang Havainas yan, or Dupé, Crocs, or Fit Flops.

(Another pet peeve is women clad in jogging outfits wearing them everywhere but the gym! I mean, sure, they’re comfy and easy to move around in, but gads, there are better clothes out there that are probably more apropos for your shape, height, weight and the occasion!)

You can’t blame me for having this much contempt for people who don’t dress appropriately. I was born in the era when the only “proper attire” written on invitations was divided into three categories: casual, semi-formal and formal. (Nowadays I see that seemingly ubiquitous sub-category “casual chic” on invites, which makes me go “hmmm, should I or should I not wear my clean white Havaianas to this?” LOL.)

Seriously, folks, I guess you can call me “old school,” so I need clarity and difference in my attire—and especially my footwear. So if I’m going to work, like a press event or an interview, I usually have my heels or wedges on. If I’m going to the mall, I’ll be in my Adidas casual sneakers. If I’m going to the beach, then I’ll wear my Havaianas. Also if I’m at home, I’m usually in my Havaianas. After all, it is just a rubber slipper. I don’t care whether it’s a high-end or low-end brand like Spartan—it is still a tsinelas. Or as my funny bruja friend Georgia dubs it: pamatay ng ipis. Pag me ipis jan sa tabi, aapakan nyo pa rin ng tsinelas nyong Havaianas.

(Ballet flats and slingbacks for the women who need comfy footwear on their way to the office, before switching to their heels at work. These are also perfect for traveling. Very easy to remove before the security check.)

Work to me is a time to be serious and formal in manner of dress and thinking. You put your game face on and smile for your boss and clients, and the focus should be on the tasks at hand. That attitude should be projected in the manner of dressing, as well. Like it or not, whether you are in your office or outside its premises, you still bring the name of your company around. You are its representative everywhere you go.

This appeal also goes to all the women out there in the government offices shuffling about from table to table in their padded slippers! C’mon, ladies, your office, which represents the highest post in the land, your President, is not the place to wear your tsinelas. These belong at home.

Yes, I get the fact that we can’t torture our feet by being in heels all day. But just take the time to shop. If you really need comfy footwear, there are awesome sandals and cute and colorful flats out there in the market—and you’d be amazed at the diversity of choices! Also, think about wearing kitten heels! These are not too low or too high, that you can run around in them all day long. Promise.

Ruby Gan, who co-owns Schu and MYTH, and is my lovely fashion guru (when I need to dress up for some once-in-a-lifetime noteworthy event, I ask her input on what to wear), once told me she too gets peeved when she sees her employees go to work in their flip-flops and, get this, their pekpek shorts! The term is such because the shorts leave very little to the imagination. I shudder as she tells me this. Is it another Sunday at the mall? Or a walk along the beach?

So I asked her input on the kind of footwear a woman should wear to and from work (or again, for you ladies in the government offices, in lieu of your tsinelas).

“In my opinion,” Rubt says, “closed flats are better for work, then switch to heels—these will go well with work clothes.”

She does point out that with “work clothes” becoming more casual these days, “it’s okay to wear sandals—but never wear thong sandals with stockings! That looks awful! Footless stockings may be acceptable for open-toe sandals but I still would advice against this, because your feet will slide forward and stockings are prone to tearing. However, I know there are special kinds of stockings now that are specifically for open toes, where your toes are exposed.”

For women who wear more formal office attire, such as bank uniforms, Ruby suggests “ballet flats or slingbacks with closed front (on your way to the office).” The understanding is, once the ladies are in their offices, they switch to their heels.

There you have it—some sage advice from the ever fashyon Ruby. Heed her or she’s going to bop you on the head, girls. And I mean it! The sexy lady is a powerful lifter as well, hala!

(A fabulously smart and chic sandal for that ride on the MRT before work. And hold the stockings please!)

Seriously gals, this is not just about fashion. It has to do with respecting oneself—and the people you work for and with.

Dressing up appropriately for all situations and for the occasion shows you care about yourself, and how you project yourself to the world. It also shows how much regard you have for your place of employment, and, in the case of special occasions, the people who invited you.

I once read this account of a well-known celebrity writer who was denied entrance to a chi-chi members-only club dining area because she was wearing sneakers. Sure, these were high-end branded fashionable sneakers that probably cost more than the monthly salaries of all the waitstaff put together, including their F&B manager, but see? not apt for the occasion and the premises.

Btw, I am also appalled when I see men and women in their rubber flip flops at the airport when they are on the plane going abroad. Again, whatever happened to dressing up properly for flights? I'd understand if they were going to Boracay or Bali, but heavens, if you're going to a modern city like Hong Kong or Beijing for instance, flip flops I think are unacceptable footwear for planes. Wearing these may make it easier for passengers to unshod their feet during security checks, but really, I find these disgusting and so inappropriate. So I don't blame Immigration officials in the destinations these flip-flopped passengers are arriving at to look at them with suspicion. Passengers need to dress respectably to be respected.

Being in a tropical country where the lifestyle is so laidback sometimes makes us feel lazy and too casual in our manner of dressing. But we need to put more thought in our clothes and our footwear, and be more presentable, especially when we’re outside our homes. There has to be a line drawn between a casual look, a work or special-events look, or yes, for that flight abroad.

And just because everyone wears their Havaianas to everywhere, doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Be different, be fashionable, and dress correctly. As the novelist Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man.”

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on July 1, 2011.)

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