Keeping it Real

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Mike DeBonis, 37 Congressional Reporter for the Washington Post, Washington, D.C.

What is the dress code in your workplace?

I work in one of the most conservative fashion environments that still exists outside of maybe a law firm. So if I’m at the Capitol, I’m in a suit and tie and dress shoes pretty much every day I’m there. I’m also an observer of members of Congress’ footwear, and in the last year to two years, there’s been a lot more men wearing nice-looking sneakers with suits — they can get away with it, but we can’t. People might wear disgusting, beat-to-hell shoes, but they’re dressy beat-to-hell shoes.

What is a typical work day like for you?

Sheer steps are an issue. You’re walking a lot, and 10,000 step days are not unusual. And there are hard floors everywhere — marble, tile. There’s some carpet in the building, but it’s not ever where I stand. When I first came here, I was in a carpeted office or covering city hall, and at the time I had a pair of nice leather-soled Johnston and Murphy oxfords. But when I started covering the Capitol, leather soles were out of the picture.

How many different pairs of shoes do you have in rotation to wear for work and what are the top shoes in your work rotation?

I have two pairs of good shoes, one brown and one black to go with my suits. My brown pair is a Johnston and Murphy cap-toe. I’ve had these for three years, and they have this nice, fairly durable rubber sole. And I found this very nice black Oxford by Ecco — it’s all business shoe from the top but it has a very nice cushiony rubber sole. And if I’m in the newsroom where nobody cares, I have any number of trashy sneakers that I will wear with anything.

“My general philosophy is buy good shoes and take care of them.” — Mike DeBonis
How much do you spend on work shoes?

I’ll spend $100 to $200 — I’m not in Allen Edmonds or Ferragamo territory, although I should think about making my next purchase a nice one. My general philosophy is buy good shoes and take care of them: I use shoe trees religiously, I shine my own shoes, I use this moisturizing cream a couple times a year, and every month or so give it the old once-over with the old Lincoln Wax. I have to get new heels put on my shoes every 9 months or so, and I’ve changed insoles on both of my shoes multiple times.

Where do you buy your shoes for work?

I’m always looking around for a quality pair of shoes at a good price at a Nordstrom Rack or Johnston and Murphy store or similar.

When you buy work shoes, are you buying them for work only, or do you buy them planning to wear them for outside of work occasions as well?

The shoes I wear to work I also tend to wear to nicer social occasions.

What could brands do better when designing the type of shoes you need for work?

Sometimes it can be hard to find a dressy, suit-appropriate shoe with a comfortable sole that isn’t too chunky, but feel like that has gotten easier over the past 5 years or so.

How do you describe your personal style — and how important are your shoes to that look?

American Professional Guy: neat suits in basic colors, fairly conservative shirts and ties, nothing too trendy or cut too trimly. Hill reporters are not known for their fashion forwardness, and I am not breaking the mold.

Denine M. Pezone, 55 Business Strategist, Self-Employed, Charlotte, NC

What is the dress code in your workplace?

Business casual.

What is a typical work day like for you?

I work from a home office, but frequently meet clients and customers during the day. I usually will take a break at some point during the day to take a walk and get lunch or just get some fresh air. I  travel a good deal so, I am in and out of airports a lot.

Describe the footwear you wear for work.

I wear heels or boots for “work” and dress. When I need to walk to a meeting, I may wear a pair of casual shoes to the meeting and then change into business appropriate shoes before I meet with clients or customers. For work shoes, the most important attributes are fit and style. For casual work shoes, fit and style are the priorities.

For work shoes, the most important attributes are fit and style. For casual shoes that I would wear between meetings, conferences or travel — comfort, fit and style are the priorities. — Denine M. Pezone
How many different pairs of shoes do you have in rotation to wear for work and what are the top shoes in your work rotation?

I have roughly 20 to 30 pairs of shoes that I rotate for work. The style I wear will depend on the meetings or events that I attend. If the meeting requires heels, I have a range of pumps from Kate Spade, Prada and Jimmy Choo. For a more casual environment, I will wear Stuart Weitzman or Sam Edelman. The top three work shoes in my current rotation are Cole Hahn boots, Rag & Bone booties and Donald Pliner wedges. Boots are my favorite work style. They are usually most comfortable and I can wear them from work to evening. They are stylish and easy to travel in.

How much do you spend on work shoes?

Between $100 to $600 per pair.

Where do you buy your shoes for work?

Department or specialty stores: I like to try on my shoes. However, I have also made some purchases online.

When you buy work shoes, are you buying them for work only, or do you buy them planning to wear them for outside of work occasions as well?

I buy shoes because I love shoes. Then I figure out where I will wear them!

What could brands do better when designing the type of shoes you need for work?

Footwear could better reflect trends that we see today in athleisure and be more varied and appropriate for multiple uses such as going from the gym to casual to dress.

How do you describe your personal style — and how important are your shoes to that look?

Shoes are one of the most important aspects of my wardrobe! My style tends to be more fashion-forward. I follow runway trends and launches of the luxury brands and often buy what is currently being shown in that season. I still like to dress up to go to work. I love a great pair of wool pants, a cashmere sweater and a pair of boots. These are staples in my wardrobe.

Will Stitilis, 26 Assistant Director Marketing & Community Relations, Princeton University Athletics, Princeton, NJ

What is the dress code in your workplace?

There is no official dress code, but business casual is generally accepted. A polo and khakis is fine, or khakis and button-down shirt. I can even get away with a [university-branded] sweatshirt. In terms of footwear, any closed toe shoe is OK. No flip-flops. No work boots.

What is a typical work day like for you?

The workday depends on whether I have a game, which sport it is and whether it’s taking place inside or outside. For example, this Friday I’ll wear sneakers to the office to start the day and I’ll bring a change of clothes and shoes for the basketball game I’m working in the evening. If there’s no athletic event that day, there’s a decent amount of physical tasks and activity – setting up for games or stuff to do around the facilities. There’s not a lot of sitting still.

Describe the footwear you wear for work.

About 60 percent of the time I’m in sneakers. Otherwise, I wear a boat shoe or a desert boot and sometimes a dress shoe for meetings or for when I’m working a game inside. Comfort is a high priority, because we are fairly active during our workday and I want my feet comfortable. A more comfortable shoe makes for a better work experience. Waterproofing is fine for outside but I’ll wear a better sock underneath to help keep my feet dry.

Comfort is a high priority, because we are fairly active during our workday and I want my feet comfortable. A more comfortable shoe makes for a better work experience. — Will Stitilis
How many different pairs of shoes do you have in rotation to wear for work and what are the top shoes in your work rotation?

I have seven or eight shoes in rotation. My top three types of shoes are basketball or running sneakers, business casual styles and a typical dress shoe. Right now I’m wearing a grey Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 sneaker. I also have a couple pair of Clarks desert boots in rotation — one is blue suede and the other is brown suede. They stand out a little bit but they’re not as flashy. And I have a Calvin Klein dress shoe that is a black leather laceup.

How much do you spend on work shoes?

If I’m spending on a nicer, dressier business-type shoe, I’ll spend $150 tops — and less is better. I don’t want to break the bank.

Where do you buy your shoes for work?

I don’t have to buy my Nike sneakers, which is a very nice perk of my job. [Ed. Note: Princeton’s Athletic Department is sponsored by Nike.] But for my other shoes, most often I look online first to see what I like and then I’ll go to a store to buy the footwear. I like to try on the shoe in person. I live near a couple malls, so I’ll find a Clarks store or go to a Macy’s, and I’ll shop in a Foot Locker or a Champs. I don’t buy online. I don’t want to deal with having to return something if the footwear doesn’t fit.

What could brands do better when designing the type of shoes you need for work?

So much about shoes these days has become a fashion element. Companies are now giving lots of options with colors and styles. Our job is not about being fashion-forward. As long as it’s a comfortable shoe, I’m fine with it.

How do you describe your personal style — and how important are your shoes to that look?

My personal style is relaxed comfort. How my wardrobe comes together is not a big priority. On basketball game days I’ll wear something closer to an actual business outfit of a nice buttondown shirt, tie and dress pants, and my dress shoes. But in general, I’m wearing a polo, khaki and sneakers. No one is walking around the athletic department wearing some exotic footwear. Our department is not overly concerned with fashion and trends. Socks are actually an important component that relates to my footwear. For working hockey games, I’ll wear a wool sock because I’m in an ice rink, whereas for a football game in the cold weather, I’ll put on a thicker sock and a sock with a good cushioning since I’m on my feet for eight hours. For basketball I like my Stance socks: they’re fun but not outwardly showy.

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