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The flap over flip-flops
Its officially summer but does that mean summer footwear is appropriate in the office?

If you're on your way to the beach, you grab your flip-flops.

But how about to the office?

"I think they shouldn't be (in the workplace) unless you're at a pool," said Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. "I don't mind some of the open-toe sandals, but you just have to look professional all over."

Thus is the very thin line drawn between a sandal (looking professional) and a flip-flop (looking a little too casual). When asked about the difference between the two, some local shopkeepers had difficulty defining it.

A sandal isn't simply a shoe without a back, said Lorry Schrage, owner of Saul's on the downtown Gainesville square, because that's what makes a mule distinctive. And just because a shoe has two thin straps between your toes to hold the shoe on doesn't mean it's cheap, he added.

"Some of them get pretty expensive when they start embellishing and putting things on them," he said.

And not all flip-flops are made of flimsy plastic, he said. For example, they could be constructed of leather and look more refined.

Saul's sells both flip-flops and sandals, but when pressed, neither Schrage nor another sales clerk could specifically define the difference between the two types of shoes.

Yet for many office dress codes, that subtle difference can make or break the right outfit.

"I think there is a fine line; I think that we all need to have some standards, and in professional standards and in professional environments I think that those professional standards need to be upheld," said Jessie Johnston Carmon, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Heritage in Gainesville. "Nice sandals are one thing but flip-flops ... wrong answer."

Susan Williams, an executive assistant at Peach State Bank and Trust in Gainesville, said she considers the difference between flip-flops and sandals to be in the heel.

"If it has a heel, it's not a flip-flop," she said. And while she admitted to owning a few pairs, she reserves her flip-flop wearing to errands and walking the dog.

"Depending on the sandal, I think it's the heel."

Candace Williams, an attorney at Coleman and Chambers in Gainesville, said she would love to be able to wear flip-flops to the office. But working at a law firm and representing clients in the courtroom requires a much more formal attire.

In fact, Williams said she's even uncomfortable wearing open-toed shoes at times - even though she would dearly love to wear flip-flops.

"I don't think it's appropriate being a female attorney to wear flip-flops, even though I would love to wear flip-flops and my bunions can probably tell you that," she said. "I have to wear heels every day; even if I have a casual day, I don't like wearing open-toed shoes.

"And sometimes I'm not even comfortable wearing that."

Williams took a tip from Oprah, though. In her quest to find more comfortable shoes, she's discovered a line from Cole Haan that are built to feel like a tennis shoe on the inside - but look like a stylish high heel on the outside.

They cost from $169 at an outlet store to more than $200 in department stores or online.

"It's a little more expensive than your average heel, but it's definitely worth it," she said.

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