ootwear is a key aspect of any uniform, both in terms of the coherence it can bring to an outfit, which instantly gives an organisation a more professional image; and also in terms of function which is especially important for the corporate and workwear sectors. Where workers are on their feet for extended periods of time throughout the working day, they need footwear that is comfortable, allows ease of movement, and in certain industries, complies with safety standards.
Stuart Thorne of safety footwear company, JAL Group, explains: “It’s no good having a piece of footwear that simply looks good if it doesn’t have 200 joule toe cap protection, puncture resistant material, or excellent grip in wet environments if there are drop, puncture and slip and trip hazards associated with the task.” With ‘slips and trips’ accounting for the highest number of workplace accidents this is an essential consideration when designing workwear shoes.
Thankfully style no longer has to be sacrificed for safety. “Originally safety footwear design was purely about performance. Today, more than ever before, style and safety combine on equal footings,” says Stuart.
The development of safety footwear specifically designed for women is another important progression. Until recently women have had to put up with wearing footwear that was created for men but merely produced in female sizes. Other developments include the use of composite ballistic fibres which have allowed safety footwear to be lighter and more flexible.
Collaborations between safety manufacturers and brands such as Timberland and Vibram have also bridged the gap between function and fashion. But what about the corporate environment where, although comfortable and functional footwear is still vital, wearers have more freedom when it comes to styles? Footwear can also prove to be an easy and low cost way of freshening up a uniform.
The catwalks for spring/summer 2009 showcased a plethora of exciting shoe trends that are already filtering down to the high street. When it comes to fashionable footwear for this season, it’s all in the detail. This is great news for the corporate markets, as by adopting some of the simple details seen across the catwalks a balance between style and practicality can easily be achieved.
Fringing is a key look for this season; folk inspired fringing was a major shoe trend for winter 2008 and this is going to develop through spring and summer, with shoes becoming lighter and taking on a more western style.
A trend that is likely to last longer, however, is criss-crossing laces and ballerina tied shoes, which were seen on the runways of Marc Jacobs, Dior and Donna Karan. Simple and functional, this look could make an effortless transition into corporate footwear, with laces and ties adding interesting but practical detail to heels or flats.
As ever there were a lot of sky-scraper heels around for this season, this trend is not suitable for employees who are on their feet all day, but smaller heels encompassing the ankle straps seen at Gucci, Oscar de la Renta, and Pucci, amongst others, could work nicely for the corporate environment. A heeled shoe adds a touch of glamour to a uniform, while the ankle strap is a practical touch ensuring the shoes stays on and the foot is supported.
Flowers are very in vogue this season and are a recurring trend. Floral detail and embellishment can be used to add a touch of femininity and individuality. Meanwhile, other embellishments are big news for spring and summer. Jewels, beads, studs and bows were all used to create some seriously fancy footwear. This is another trend that would make a smooth crossover for corporatewear since as much or as little detail can be added as desired. Even just a hint of embellishment is enough to liven up an otherwise plain shoe.
Using different textures and fabrics are simple ways of bringing shoes up-to-date and creating an individual corporate identity. Ultra soft leathers, canvas and leather mixes, patent, snakeskin, and printed fabrics are all on trend for the coming season.
In terms of colours, orange and pink were the hot favourites; bright colours are very on trend for footwear in spring/summer 2009. Bold coloured shoes are a great way to liven up a neutral uniform and can add both a sense of style and fun to an outfit.
With so much going on in the fashion world, safety and corporate manufacturers certainly have their work cut out when it comes to creating shoes that meet the dual functions of style and functionality, as Stuart explains:
“High street designers don’t have the issues to contend with that the safety footwear manufacturers do, whose goal is style and hitting the right market. We have to do that in addition to meeting the physical and environmental demands of the workplace, whilst helping employers meet their health and safety responsibilities. Given those additional pressures, safety footwear today looks extremely good.”
It seems that footwear for work need no longer be purely functional and uninspiring. By taking note of catwalk and high street trends and adding a bit of fashion detail, shoes for uniform purposes are receiving a major revamp. Fashion is quickly becoming a key consideration when designing footwear for the workplace meaning employees can step out in style this season.