High heel rule exposes innate double standard - Argus Friday 13th May 2016

Posted Monday 16th May 2016   By Ericka Waller

Nicola Thorp, an office temp, was sent home from PwC this week after refusing to wear 2”to 4” inch heels. Ms Thorp said she ‘d struggle to work a full day in high heels and asked to continue wearing the smart flat shoes she’d worn to the office in, but was told to ‘go and buy a pair of heels’. When she inquired whether the men had to also wear high-heels she was laughed at and told ‘men aren’t used to wearing heels.’ ‘Well I am not either’ she replied, ‘I must have missed that class in school’. (I’ve seen plenty of men work high-heels very well down here in Brighton, so it can be done.)

When she declined to put her sexy on, she was sent home without pay. She has since launched a petition calling for the law to be changed so companies can no longer force women to wear high heels to work. It has so far received more than 11,000 signatures.

This is not the first time women have had to defend the right to wear comfortable shoes (like men get to wear all the time, except Prince, and look what happened there).

Last year Cannes film festival told women to wear high-heels on the red carpet. Telegraph Columnist Louise Peacock was refused entry to ‘Sushi Samba’ for not wearing high heels.

This used to happen to me when I was a youth. We’d catch the late train to Watford to go clubbing. Well, my friends did. I never got past the bouncer because I was wearing trainers. Each time, I patiently explained that my Nike Air Max cost four times more than the white plastic stilettos being worn by the girl in front, and were a far less effective weapon in a fight, but it never worked.

Isn’t it great that this doesn’t happen in Brighton? We can rock up anywhere in whatever we like (providing it isn’t a Crystal Palace or ‘Rod Liddle Rocks’ t-shirt) and know we will be welcomed. No dirty looks, no judgement.

As a Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferer, flip-flops are my ‘go-to’ shoe for nights-out dancing. I’ve never been refused entry despite my ugly warped toes being on show.

Sadly, I did suffer wardrobe-based prejudice in the workplace in Brighton. When I worked in Marketing, one of my jobs was to attend exhibitions.

As well as setting up the stand (while my male boss directed, watching me struggle with plinths and flat screen TV’s), my job was to ‘man’ it, or more accurately ‘woman it’.

I was advised to wear ‘something short and tight with a red power jacket’. Not the ideal outfit for a removals person. I refused, on the grounds of both morality and fashion.

Steve Jobs of Apple always wore jeans and a turtleneck. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook tycoon, lives in a black t-shirt and jeans. Google has no dress code for its employees, or interviewees even. This goes to show that what someone wears to work has no bearing on their jobs, or their performance, if they are a man.

Admittedly, men are often told to wear a tie, however there is nothing particular sexy about this (apart from the clip on ones, they always get me going). High-heels were designed to elongate women’s legs, and make us walk with a vulnerability which supposedly brings the ‘protective gene’ in men. Red lipstick was designed to make our lips remind men of our, um, other lips. I’m not walking around with a fanny on my face.

Imagine if all women in the workplace had to wear high-heels. The ladies in ASDA, Lifeboat Crew, Nurses, Driving Instructors, Ballerinas. Imagine if you had to go to work on the Pier in high-heels. It’d take you half-an-hour to get to the donut stand.

Wouldn’t it be nice, if in our liberal City, every office had a ‘Dressing up box’ in reception for people to help themselves to upon arrival morning, depending on what gender or mood they were in.

Keith from Finance could check his spreadsheets in a feather boa and Lederhosen. Jackie on Reception could welcome people in a Darth Vadar costume. My four year old goes to nursery every day in a different ensemble. Today it’s a Kimono, felt clogs and red velvet cape. She feels great! I’m inspired.

AND FINALLY Last week we parked in Lyme Regis. It cost £6 for eight hours. In Brighton it costs £26 for four hours in the NCP Car Park, and you have to tread over hot urine to get to the ticket machine, which never works. Considering the amount of money the council make out of us motorists through speeding fines and parking tickets, you’d think car parks would be in better condition.