Yrbenka Arthus never planned to become the sneaker queen of LinkedIn. When she joined the professional network in September 2021 as an associate creator programs manager, DEI, she was looking for ways to hone her voice as a creator — and connect to her new colleagues in the office.
“We were wearing kicks to the office and I was seeing this trend,” Arthus said. “And I was like, ‘Wait a second, there’s something going on here.'” So on a whim in October 2021, she decided to draft a post on LinkedIn highlighting some of her coworkers’ cool sneakers from the company’s New York office. This ultimately became the first in a series of similar posts under the “Kicks of LinkedIn” banner, which spotlights the unique footwear choices of employees at the company.
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“My LinkedIn colleagues are some of the flyest folks in tech, so I’m kicking off a new #KicksOfLinkedIn series where I’m highlighting the fire footwear I spot in the office,” the post, which now has over 200 reactions, read.
Once the first post went live, Arthus realized the potential for an ongoing series. Highlighting her coworkers’ sneakers was a great way for her to foster office friendships and grow a community in the workplace, but it also gave her an avenue to build her platform on LinkedIn and cultivate community there, which was large part of her job.
Arthus started approaching new people in the office to talk about their shoes to feature them in the series. While she doesn’t describe herself as a sneakerhead, Arthus was eager to let her coworkers teach her more about the sneaker world.
“People would be like, ‘Oh, you’re the Kicks of LinkedIn girl,'” Arthus said. Eventually, people across the company’s various offices started seeking her out and sending photos of their shoes to be featured in a post. Arthus said she was even invited to join a company all-hands meeting where LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky spotlighted Kicks of LinkedIn.
“It kind of blew up,” said Arthus, whose posts in the series often garner around 200 reactions each. “I’m doing really good work in my role [at the company], but what I became known for was so far from anything that had to do with the actual work that I was doing.”
In addition to her growing following and influence within the company, Arthus also noticed another byproduct of the series: People started feeling more comfortable sharing their passions and parts of themselves in the workplace. For example, Arthus said she had one person reach out to her saying that because of her series, he felt empowered to keep his large sneaker collection on display in the background of his work Zoom calls. She also had people from other companies reach out and tell her they wanted to start this initiative in their own workplaces.
At a time when the office dress code and prior ideals of “professionalism” are shifting, Kicks of LinkedIn made a powerful point about what it means to show up as yourself to the workplace.
“There was this idea around redefining professionalism and what that looked like,” Arthus said. “And I saw it in a real way in our offices.”
This conversation is happening outside of LinkedIn as well. Sneakers are now widely accepted in various professional settings, from board meetings to the red carpet. Earlier this year, lawmakers launched a Congressional Sneaker Caucus, which seeks to bring together a bipartisan group of Congress members and staff via a shared appreciation for sneakers and their impact on culture. In June, the caucus invited lawmakers to don their favorite pairs of kicks on the job to help bring awareness to the new footwear-focused group and promote the idea of Congress members wearing sneakers with their suits.
“I think that one way that we’re redefining professionalism is showing up as our full selves,” explained Arthus. As a woman of color, she has experienced this in her own way by coming into work with straight back braids in her hair, something she said her mother wasn’t necessarily able to do earlier in her career.
As for the future of Kicks of Linkedn, Arthus paused the series earlier this year, but she plans to start it up again soon with a regular cadence, as the conversations surrounding the changing office uniform continue to gain momentum.
“We’re seeing sneakers with suits, on celebrities, and we’re seeing styling around sneakers be more professional,” Arthus said. “I do think there’s just so much room to experiment and to express yourself in the office now with what you’re wearing.”
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