Image: Erica P. Johnson

When he landed in Chicago after dark for an interview with a large pharmaceutical company, Robert "Duffy" Dufresne received the sobering news that his luggage had been lost. In anticipation of such a mishap, Dufresne had packed a gray suit in his carry-on bag, but he says he overlooked a single detail. "When I arrived, the only shoes I had were the ones I was wearing: my blue suede tennis sneakers."

With no shoe stores open at the late hour (let alone any accustomed to Dufresne's size 15 feet), and the first of his eight interviews scheduled for early the next morning, Dufresne decided to don the sneakers. He hoped those blue suede shoes wouldn't step on his chances of getting hired. "I kept seeing people attempting to catch a glimpse, but trying to not stare at my shoes ... in some perverse way this made...

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