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Should women wear high heels to an interview?

Should Women Wear High Heels To An Interview?

Should Women Wear High Heels To An Interview?


Have you ever wondered if the shoes you wear to a job interview could influence your chances of landing the position? This question was posed to me recently by a female client, sparking a thoughtful conversation about the role of high heels in professional settings. This blog post delves into whether wearing high heels to an interview can improve your chances of getting hired, examining perspectives from both male and female interviewers.

Understanding the impact of high heels on interview success is crucial because it intersects with issues of gender expectations and professional image. With workplace dynamics constantly evolving, it is essential to explore whether such traditional attire still holds relevance.

Should This Even Be a Question in This Day and Age?

In short, no, this should not be a question that you need to consider when going for an interview.  Unfortunately it is a question that should at least be considered.   

Today, the question of wearing high heels to an interview remains pertinent as it reflects ongoing debates about gender equality, comfort, and professionalism. In an age where dress codes are becoming more relaxed, does the choice of footwear still send a powerful message to potential employers?

Historical Background

Firstly, let’s understand a little more about the high heel and where it came from.  High heels boast a rich and varied history, tracing back to ancient civilisations where they were worn by both men and women for reasons ranging from practicality to social status. Understanding this historical context illuminates how high heels have evolved into a significant element of modern women’s fashion, symbolising elegance and authority.

Ancient Civilisations

High heels first emerged in ancient Egypt around 3500 BC, where they were worn by both genders during ceremonial events. These early heels were often depicted in murals and carvings, illustrating their importance in cultural and religious practices. Additionally:

  • Butchers in Ancient Egypt: It is believed that butchers wore heels to keep their feet elevated from the blood on the floor while slaughtering animals, showcasing a practical application.
  • Persian Horse Riders: In the 9th century, Persian cavalrymen wore high-heeled shoes to secure their feet in stirrups while riding, enhancing their stability and effectiveness in combat.

European Renaissance

During the Renaissance period in Europe, high heels became a fashion statement among the nobility. Both men and women of the aristocracy donned high heels as a symbol of status and wealth:

  • Louis XIV of France: Perhaps one of the most famous historical figures associated with high heels is King Louis XIV, who popularised red-heeled shoes among the French court in the 17th century. His elaborate, elevated footwear was a marker of his royal status and was often emulated by his courtiers.

Transition to Women’s Fashion

By the 18th century, high heels started to become more gender-specific, gradually being relegated to women’s fashion. This transition was influenced by shifting social norms and the changing roles of men and women in society:

  • Industrial Revolution: With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, practicality in men’s footwear became more important, leading to a decline in men wearing high heels.
  • 19th Century: During the 19th century, high heels became firmly associated with women’s fashion. The designs evolved to be more intricate and varied, catering to the growing fashion industry that catered predominantly to women.

Understanding the Impact of High Heels on Interview Success

The decision to wear high heels to a job interview is more than just a fashion choice; it delves into deeper societal and psychological realms that encompass gender expectations and professional image. Here’s why understanding this impact is crucial:

Intersection with Gender Expectations

High heels are often viewed as a symbol of femininity and have traditionally been associated with enhancing a woman’s appearance in a way that aligns with societal expectations. These expectations can influence how female candidates are perceived in professional settings:

  • Perception of Femininity: Wearing high heels can align with traditional views of femininity, which might influence how a candidate is perceived in terms of grace, elegance, and attractiveness. This perception can be double-edged; while it might appeal to some interviewers, it can also reinforce outdated stereotypes.
  • Gender Bias: High heels can inadvertently play into gender biases. Some interviewers might subconsciously associate high heels with a candidate’s seriousness or professionalism, impacting their judgment. Conversely, others might view the choice of high heels as prioritising appearance over capability.


Professional Image

The concept of a professional image is multifaceted and evolving. High heels have historically been part of a professional wardrobe, but their relevance today is being questioned:

  • Traditional Professional Attire: High heels have been a staple in professional attire, symbolising authority and a polished look. In many industries, this traditional image persists, and wearing high heels might still be seen as a norm.
  • Evolving Norms: Workplace dynamics are shifting towards inclusivity and comfort. Companies are increasingly embracing diversity in appearance, recognising that professionalism extends beyond attire. As a result, high heels might no longer be seen as a necessity to project professionalism.


Contemporary Relevance

The relevance of traditional attire like high heels is constantly being reassessed:

  • Comfort and Practicality: There is a growing emphasis on employee well-being and comfort. High heels, often associated with discomfort and health issues, might not align with these modern workplace values.
  • Authenticity and Confidence: Authenticity is becoming increasingly valued in professional settings. Candidates who choose attire, including footwear, that makes them feel confident and comfortable are likely to perform better in interviews. High heels might enhance some women’s confidence, while others might feel more at ease in flats.

Industries Where High Heels Are Viewed as Formal Business Attire

In many professional settings, high heels are considered a key component of formal business attire, contributing to a polished and authoritative appearance. The following industries often uphold this standard:

1. Corporate Finance and Banking

In corporate finance and banking, high heels are commonly seen as part of the expected dress code. The industry emphasises a conservative and polished look, where professionalism is conveyed through tailored suits and formal footwear.

  • Examples: Investment banks, hedge funds, accounting firms, and financial advisory companies.


2. Law and Legal Services

The legal profession traditionally demands a high level of formality in attire. Lawyers, particularly those in high-profile roles or courtroom settings, often wear high heels to complement their professional outfits, projecting confidence and authority.

  • Examples: Law firms, corporate legal departments, and judicial environments.


3. Consulting

Management and strategy consulting firms often require their consultants to maintain a professional and sophisticated appearance. High heels are part of the standard business attire, especially during client meetings and presentations.

  • Examples: Big Four consulting firms (e.g., Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG), and strategy consulting firms like McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company.


4. Marketing and Advertising

In marketing and advertising, where creativity meets business, high heels can be a symbol of both style and professionalism. While the dress code may be more flexible, high heels are often worn during client presentations and formal meetings.

  • Examples: Advertising agencies, public relations firms, and marketing departments within large corporations.


5. Real Estate

Real estate professionals, particularly those in commercial real estate or high-end residential markets, often wear high heels to project a polished image. This is especially true during property showings and client interactions.

  • Examples: Real estate brokerage firms, property management companies, and real estate development firms.


6. Fashion and Luxury Retail

In the fashion industry, high heels are not only a part of professional attire but also a fashion statement. Professionals in this industry often wear high heels to reflect the latest trends and maintain a stylish appearance.

  • Examples: Fashion designers, luxury retail brands, and fashion magazines.


7. Hospitality and Event Management

High heels are often worn by professionals in the hospitality and event management industry to maintain a sophisticated and elegant appearance, particularly during high-profile events and client meetings.

  • Examples: Hotels, event planning companies, and luxury travel agencies.


8. Public Relations and Communications

In public relations and communications, high heels are often part of the professional dress code, especially when interacting with clients, the media, or during high-profile events.

  • Examples: PR agencies, corporate communications departments, and media relations firms.


While high heels are considered an essential part of formal business attire in several industries, the overarching trend is toward valuing comfort and personal expression alongside traditional professionalism. The decision to wear high heels should be informed by the specific industry standards, company culture, and the individual’s personal comfort and style.

Do you research

It’s a little cliche but by doing your homework on the company and the expectations you can take the guessing out of the process.

  • Reflect on your personal style and comfort when choosing interview attire – ultimately you should be as authentic, comfortable and confident going into the interview as you possibly can be.
  • Consider the company culture – begin by assessing the company culture and dress code. Research the organisation to understand what attire is appropriate, including footwear.
  • Join professional networks and forums where you can share experiences and get advice on interview attire. Engaging with others can provide reassurance and diverse perspectives.


By doing your research and preparation you help remove some of the interview stress about the unknown element of the process.  This may seem insignificant to some people but this is a little part of many little parts that together make an interview great.  A little by a little, a little will become a lot.

Wrap Up

This blog post explored whether wearing high heels to an interview can impact your chances of landing the job, considering historical context, modern significance, and varying perspectives.

Ultimately, whether you wear high heels to an interview should be a decision based on your comfort and confidence. Professionalism is not dictated by footwear but by how you carry yourself and your qualifications. Make choices that best represent your true self, and you’ll be well-prepared to make a great impression.

You have got this!

“On the other side of a successful interview is the life you deserve!”


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