How Do I Get My Coworker to Wear Shoes in the Office?

Illustration by Jim Cooke/GMG.
Illustration by Jim Cooke/GMG.

Dear Jane,

I have been working at a small business for the past year and a half. We are an office of all women and we all work well together. We recently moved to a new building and my office is now next door to a coworker who is... very interesting. She can be rude and she has many quirks that get on my nerves, but overall, I deal. I just accepted it’s part of her personality. However, one thing I’ve discovered working much closer to her this past month is that she rarely wears shoes. She will walk around the entire office, including going to the bathroom (which is located outside our actual office down a hallway), completely barefoot. It grosses me out, but I dread having to report this to our boss, mainly because I am one of the newer people in the office and my coworker has worked with our boss for 8+ years. I don’t want to put my boss in the awkward position of having to tell her to wear shoes, but at the same time, I don’t think I have it in me to confront her myself. I feel like I can’t be the only one who notices that she walks around the kitchen barefoot! Should I just grin and bear it like my other coworkers seem to be doing?



Ew, gross. I mean, when I do it it’s not gross, it’s adorable and free-spirited, but it doesn’t sound like you work in my office because hardly anyone does except me. And the bathroom thing? What in the world? This chick sounds gnarly.


First, is there anyone you’re close to in the office who isn’t your superior and has been there a long time? Maybe you could ask them if this has been (unsuccessfully) addressed in the past.

Does your office have an HR department? It doesn’t sound like it, and that’s their mistake. If your boss is the HR department, then she should know she’ll be put in the position to handle situations like this. I’d go directly to her — do NOT send an email in case she’s homies with the barefoot gremlin and will spread it around — and voice your concerns. Make it all about health and safety or something.

If all else fails, just tell your coworker directly that you’re uncomfortable. “Hi! Man, I love working here, but your bare feet make me so nervous! I can’t concentrate on my work with all the worrying that you might step on a tack... or worse.” Then offer her a pair slippers. Like really fancy ones, the fanciest you can afford without feeling resentful about it. It’s easy to find out what size she wears; her shoes are under her desk.

Dear Jane,

I’m an artist in a Midwest city. I have had moderate success but this year I’ve really kicked my ass and have been creating work I’m proud of, have gotten a bit of local recognition, but have sold almost nothing. (I took this year to not go on the road to festivals to work on new things.) Luckily, my husband works in finance (so basically against my feminist sensibilities I am a kept woman), we have no dependents, and live in a cheap house very modestly.

I stand to inherit a large sum of money upon my uncle’s passing (which, hopefully, won’t be for a couple decades—he’s not even 70 yet) and just learned that he will be giving me a chunk of money “for a rainy day” at the end of the year. He has seen me working hard and wants to acknowledge that I don’t squander money like others in the family he is NOT giving money to (all this I learned from my sister, the executive of his estate), and I’m going to look at it as getting a grant from a benefactor for my art.

So, how does one go about not feeling like a fraud in their professional circle in this situation? Most of my friends are in the same boat—great artists who don’t make loads of money or have partners who support them, or seemingly work way harder than I do. I am daydreaming about getting a studio and upgrading my tools (a little goes a long way in this part of the country), applying to otherwise cost-prohibitive career-related activities, etc., and, although I will not be flaunting my newfound financial freedom all over the place, it’s a small community and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m, like, hot shit or something. (That sounds so fucking Midwestern, sorry.) My general thoughts are 1) who cares what people think/assume, and 2) no one is really paying attention to me anyway. BUT, I still feel like I didn’t exactly “earn” this and have a weird guilt about it. I got this for not being a fuck up in my uncle’s eyes, and being nice to him (genuinely), but not for “working” exactly.

I plan to donate some to local art organizations and animal shelters, but I should just get over this and enjoy it, yeah?

Feeling like a Fraud

Have you seen the Eva Hesse documentary on Netflix? This is the one aspect of her life they don’t delve into much: how she afforded roughly 15 years of being a full-time no-name artist in Manhattan. And you know what? It didn’t hurt the story, the not knowing. One just assumes she figured it out somehow and thank goodness she did. The world is a better place for it.

It is definitely a luxury to be able to make art all day and not have to worry about earning money to afford life’s necessities. Who wouldn’t want that? Those of us who can’t do that shouldn’t be mad at you, though. We can make art after work, it’ll be fine.

We are all born into circumstance—it’s not like you chose to have a rich uncle, but, surprise! You do. There’s no such thing in my family, which just means that I have to strive to be that rich uncle, I guess? Anyway, consider yourself lucky. Don’t make terrible art. Give as much of it away as you can. Maybe your other starving artist friends could use a little windfall themselves? I’m not recommending this to rid yourself of the guilt you shouldn’t even have; do it in the spirit of your uncle. He’s got no problem helping a sister (niece) out. Part of the joy of your newfound wealth is watching is spread.


And then go on a shopping spree or take a vacation. We all would if we were you.

And one more for next year.

Dear Jane

While I’m sure many people would say, ‘If you have to ask if it is racist it probably is,’ but I’m going to ask anyway. We know Halloween costumes that use blackface, headdresses, or any other culturally appropriated gear is offensive. But can you dress up as a person you admire if you avoid those types of things? Is it ok for say a white lady to dress up as Janet Jackson—if she wears just the clothing from her favourite video? Or wear a robe and carry a copy of the constitution to resemble Sonia Sotomayor? Nothing satirical - just clothing and a willingness to explain said costume to anyone who asks? No makeup to change skin colour or change features to appear ethnically different to who they are.

A friend of mine loves Nicki Minaj and wore a gorgeous and colourful wig and long nails and bright pink lipstick and long lashes, and sang her songs at karaoke at a party. She was accused of racism but I didn’t see it. Had she put on too much bronzer or put padding in her underwear to enlarged her flat white behind I would have agreed—but she was simply imitating someone she admired. Am I wrong?


Doesn’t hate but can sometimes be stupid

My super-white daughter—she’s so white I literally thought “are you sure?” when she came out of me—wanted to be Serena Williams for Halloween this year. She’s obsessed with her ever since her Vanity Fair cover. We watch highlight videos, we talk about who would win in a fight against the “strongest girl in the world.” The answer is always Serena.


So, when she came to me asking to dress up as her for Halloween this year, I was like fuck. This little aryan asshole. Immediately we called up former Jezebel writer Kara Brown and I had my daughter ask her because passing the buck is one of my all time favorite parenting techniques. Kara said, yes, she could dress up like Serena with a tennis outfit and racket but no makeup. She ended up changing her mind last minute and went as a cowboy AND “Dragon Maleficent.”

The moral of the story is: four-year-olds have dumb ideas for Halloween costumes. You’re not four and neither are your friends (I assume) so how about next year let’s just not?


Madge Smurtz

I don’t get being perturbed by someone else’s bare feet in an office setting, assuming they don’t stink. Just like...don’t look at her feet? I spend 95% of my time already not looking at people’s feet, so why not make it an even 100%, you know?

Also, I think it’s totally okay to dress up as people of other races for Halloween if it’s genuine, specific, and doesn’t involve any kind of ethnic caricaturization. If it gives me additional credit here, I’m Black. 

See: the white Migos