Black flats are a wardrobe essential that many professional women could not live without. However, if the shoes I’ve seen on the Hill over the past week, a lot of women are wearing flats that are neither stylish nor flattering. Not all black flats are created equal, so let’s talk about the difference between black flats for the office and every other pair out there.
Worn Beyond Measure. The first mistake that I see a lot of women making is that they don’t care for their shoes. If your flats are leather, you need to have them shined regularly. If your flats are suede, you need to spray them with leather protectant, and then brush and clean them regularly. A suede care kit can be purchased for less than $5 at your local drugstore.
Properly caring for your shoes means you need to find a cobbler. For something as simple as shining and cleaning, you don’t need to hire the best cobbler in the world. Many dry cleaners also offer shoe services, and if you live in even a medium-sized city finding a cobbler near your home or office is as easy as hitting up Google.
The Sole Reason. Women could learn a lot from men about properly caring for their shoes. If you own a quality pair of shoes, and you wear them frequently, you may need to look into having them resoled.
Over time, wear and tear to the soles can make shoes less comfortable and cause permanent damage that can ruin a shoe. I have my flats resoled and reheeled once per year. This is not necessary with inexpensive shoes (under-$100) or ballet flats, but if you invested in a quality pair of black flats, even a mediocre cobbler can do wonders for the look and durability of your shoes.
Off the Mark. There is a big difference between a professional black flat and a casual black flat. If you aren’t sure which kind you’re wearing, ask yourself, “Can I wear these with a business suit and look as pulled together as I would wearing a heel?” Need a visual aid?
Casual flats like ballet flats and Tory Burch Revas can be worn on casual Friday or on non-session days or in an office where business casual is the norm, as long as you take care of them and keep them from looking beat up. Professional flats have structure, mature embellishments (no sequins, no flimsy bows) or no embellishments and they look just as nice as a high heel sans the heel.
Want a pair of professional black flats but need to pay under-$100? A pair of suede ones from Steve Madden are $80, Topshop has them for $56. If black patent is your thing, Nine West has a structured pair for $69. Amazon also has the Ivanka Trump Annulio patent flat for $55 in limited sizes. If you’re looking for a more mature bow, like the Geox flats above, this Bamboo Sami shoe is $25 and Nine West has a pair for $59.
Comfort. Every time I write a post like this, the same comments about the importance of comfort appear. And while I feel like a broken record, let me say it again: You can make a professional looking shoe comfortable, you cannot make a comfortable casual shoe look professional.
Dr. Scholl’s makes great gel insoles that can improve the comfort of any shoe. A cobbler can smooth rough edges or stretch too-tight toes easily and inexpensively. And shoes can be broken in quickly, at home using a pair of wool socks and a blow dryer.
Also, it is my personal opinion, that when you own a pair of professional black flats, like the ones at right, you should not commute in them. You will wear them out before their time. Commute in your casual shoes and then change into the nice pair at work.
Black flats are a great option for professional women, but you have to choose wisely. Not all shoes are created equal, some are professional and some are casual. Choose your look based on your outfit, your work environment and the message that you want to convey to your superiors. I may not be shoe obsessed (I prefer handbags), but I know the value of having a good pair of professional shoes that are properly maintained.