For far too long, women have wrestled with the confidence men showcase when dressing themselves. A t-shirt and jeans can transform them in seconds, yet women reverberate on the style of denim, size of pockets, length of the t-shirt, and of course, how their bum looks. The ease men experience when pairing expensive, designer suits (or even tuxedos!) with sneakers is foreign to us. They seem to give the connection little thought and instead, spend more time considering how comfortable they feel in what they wear—both physically and emotionally.
In contrast, women are reared believing that beauty and pain are connected. We shave, wax, lift, pad, highlight and extend just about every element of our bodies – giving significant thought to style and presentation and less thought to comfort. There have always been risks to wearing high heels—from irreversible biomechanical shifts, to sprained ankles, blisters, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis and the old faithful, bunions.
High heels first arrived on scene as a way for women to prevent their long, often expensive dresses from dragging on the ground and becoming soiled. Over time, researchers found that high heels give women a more feminine gait, forcing a shorter stride and increase in the tilt and rotation of a woman’s hips. The exaggerated movements too were found more desirable by men, movements that seemed to enhance the female form.
But, in the last few years especially, women have begun to ditch their heels for more comfortable and versatile footwear options. Some have done so as a form of protest (i.e. Kristen Stewart removing her heels at the Cannes Film Festival while on the red carpet in revolt against a Cannes rule that requires women wear them there). Once the pandemic took hold, heel wear dropped significantly. Market research firm NPD Group reported that the pandemic caused sales of high heels to drop by 65% year-over-year during the second quarter of 2020. Sneakers in fact have become the new ‘power shoe’ for women.
When verbalizing the word ‘sneaker,’ most of us immediately think of our most comfortable pair or the ones we wear to workout, or footwear we mentally connect to casual and informal attire. Sneakers and how to wear them can be confounding, especially for the previously well-heeled community. Professional women can feel uncertain how to pair sneakers in professional environments and situations such as the office, trade conferences, cocktail events, and business travel – occasions where professional attire is typical. Can you wear sneakers with a business suit? Do women wear sneakers with dresses? What type of sneaker is acceptable in the office?
The short answer is: Yes, of course you can!
Even so, the debate whether ‘to heel or not to heel’ continues. Female celebrities and women in positions of great authority (hey there, Vice President Kamala Harris!) are leaning into a more relaxed, yet professional style. Tennis legend Serena Williams admitted to wearing sneakers to the royal wedding after-party, posting an Instagram photo of herself wearing sneakers beneath her evening gown.
Further, Beth Teitell of the Boston Globe wrote an engaging piece this past May titled, “Do you have the guts to wear sneakers with a dress?” questioning the commonality of wearing sneakers with a dress. The article, which revealed insights from several professional women, suggested a resounding demand by women is for stylish (and comfortable) footwear.
The timing of her piece was relevant given rise of work-from-home models and a tide shift to ‘stylish casual’ -- outfits that deliver both on professional polish and comfort. Kerry O’Brien, founder of BeingFit Financial, shared that she wore Chuck Taylors to a business breakfast in downtown Boston because “I felt like an imposter in heels. I just couldn’t do it.”
The question that naturally follows is why is modern society still asserting an outdated narrative for women only—that heels and dresses should be the norm—while men, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, show up at most events in designer duds studded by a pair of comfortable sneakers?
The dichotomy feels incredibly biased and…completely unfair.
Cocktail Sneakers’ Founder Susan Hassett didn’t set out to break the rules, rather, she hoped to bend them – just a bit. On vacation one summer, she went in search of shoes she could wear from morning to evening without forced footwear changes. Her struggle to find shoes she could confidently wear to the beach, on the boat, out to lunch, and to early evening cocktail hour, was the reason she founded Cocktail Sneakers. In fact, simplification was at the core. She wanted to simplify the process for women who just wanted to slip on or lace up a pair of sneakers and be on her way for the day—checking off her to-do list from sunrise to sunset—in both comfort and style. Cocktail Sneakers were designed with an almond-shaped toe and slender sole, both which add immediate femininity. However, these sneakers also provide strong arch support and layers of comfort delivered by closed-cell foam interior, which over time, conforms perfectly to the wearer’s foot.
Although there are plenty of dress-up occasions where heels are an elegant touch, women who want to add flair and style to their everyday business wardrobe but find fitness-forward sneaker options less flattering and ballet flats without arch support, Cocktail Sneakers deliver a perfect option.
The “well-heeled” woman is no longer relegated to 3–6-inch stilettos – and that is a trend that we, at Cocktail Sneakers, can certainly get behind.