Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A change of perspective

Here in Cornwall it is almost impossible to understand or remember why anyone would ever wear high heels. I think a counter-reaction has started, courtesy of Hadley Freeman:

Oh yes, this is the 21st century. Previously considered insurmountable barriers for women have been broken, glass ceilings shattered and exciting medical advances made daily. Yet when it comes to footwear, women seem to be voluntarily choosing to return to the days of footbinding, crippling themselves in the pursuit of neat little feet. You can't help remembering the times when women broke their ribs to narrow their waists. Plus ça change.

As you might have discerned by now, I am not a fan of high heels, never have been. In fact I've lost friends through wearing them, and I'm sure I'm not alone. The very few times I've reluctantly hoisted myself up into a pair for some social occasion, I've spent the entire evening grumpy, immobile and longing to leave. I hadn't even left the room at one such party when I heard an old acquaintance mutter - one who I haven't seen since, incidentally - "Christ, what's up with her?"

"Up" was the operative word in that question because I was up, all right - up about four-and-a-half inches in a pair of designer shoes I'd bought after having been promised that this label was the most comfortable around. Here's a hint: magazines and heel devotees often say things like, "Oh, you just haven't worn good heels. When you wear Manolo Blahnik / Jimmy Choo / Christian Louboutin shoes, you don't feel like you're wearing heels at all." They're lying. The only way you might not know you were wearing heels is if someone slipped them on your feet while you were sleeping, and even then they'd probably pinch you into wakefulness.

30 comments:

Tara Germain said...

I couldn't agree more. I got suckered into buying a pair of Louboutin shoe boots after being promised they were really comfortable. In fact, they were so crippling I wore them once (to a party next door where I spent the entire evening sitting down to avoid discomfort) and then whacked them straight on to Ebay. Never again.

Jane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane said...

I so agree and we have been going on about it for ages. Thought you might like to read our blog. Love yours.
http://thewomensroom.typepad.com/the_womens_room/2008/10/footwear-is-a-feminist-issue.html

Gourmet Chick said...

I love the way my heels make me look and feel but I can see this writer's point completley - there have been parties where I have really not enjoyed myself due to too much standing in heels. Now I always carry a pair of flats for general walking and if the heels get too much at a party. Silly maybe but it seems to me like a compromise between glamour and comfort.

lagatta à montréal said...

I can't really wear heels at all any more, but certainly wish I could wear at least lower ones when dressing up, as I'm short and plumpish, with a longer torso and short legs. I know I doodle high heels a lot; there is something wrenchingly sexy about them. But when I could wear them they were not nearly the height they are now, except among sex workers and fetishists. (And a doctor I know who has worked with street people says that foot, leg and back problems are rampant among sex workers, more common that the expected illnesses and conditons).

Hmm, nothing to do with heels, but I dearly hope Hailey can find something stylish to do with her curly hair other than torturing it straight, or looking like someone living in a 1960s commune.

And I'd love to hear how thoughtfully dressed men and women are stylish, or interestingly dressed, in places like Cornwall. Fowey looks like such a romantic place.

Duchesse said...

I often borrow the words of French designer Claudie Pierlot: "I had to choose between my heels and my smile". When men admire women in high heels and I ask them if they would put their feet in such shoes and work all day. They look at me as if I'm crazy- but I point out that the structure of the foot are the same for both sexes, and they would not dream of hobbling in them. (Or if they do, they don't spend long with them on!)

Duchesse said...

Sorry for the ungrammatical post: structure of the foot IS the same...

Anonymous said...

What irritates me is that that there seem to be so few interesting shoes in the collections/shops with heels of 2 - 2 1/2 inches. They're either incredibly high or completely flat. If there are, they are usually very plain or dull. It would be great if some of the designs could be made with high and medium heels.

I need a heel of about an inch anyway as I find that complete flats are also very uncomfortable.

phyllis said...

Okay Hadley we get it. Geez!

kairu said...

I have a pair of Louboutin open-toed pumps with a thick, chunky 70mm heel. They are my compromise between fashion and comfort, between my desire for shiny black patent leather with cherry-red soles and being able to stand for a couple of hours at a party.

Sable said...

There is the rare, glorious occasion where fashion and comfort meet, I found that intersection once in a pair of mid-low heel Manolo Blahnik sling backs. Love those shoes! As much as I love a teetering high heel I can never bring myself to fully sacrifice comfort for fashion. I must be able to function and I'm neither a happy nor pleasant person when my feet hurt.

StyleSpy said...

I just don't understand why folks get so danged mad about it. If you don't want to wear heels, don't. No one is forcing you. I wear mine, I like mine, and my shoes are my business, but I've had women positively snarl at me about them -- it's like my heels are some sort of assault on their sensibilities. And the endless justifications... Okay! I get it! You don't like high heels! Move on! There's a very strong whiff of dog-in-a-manger about the whole thing.

Zoe said...

I have no problem with women who chose to wear very high heels. What I do have a problem with is the propaganda and myths of heels! Why are they considered essential to look glamorous or attractive? Why are those who chose to wear extreme shoes applauded and considered more of a woman?

Geraldine Ryan said...

Are they? Not by me. I love heels. At least I thought I did. By heels I have always meant two and a half to three inches. I couldn't keep upright on some of the ones you see in the shops nowadays, however.

I have now modified my position and hereafter state that I like pretty shoes whether they be flat or heeled. loathe "sensible shoes"of the type you see women on tour buses wearing and trainers. God I loathe trainers.

Geraldine Ryan said...

And Uggs. Horrible things - and those awful brightly coloured sandals you see some women wearing in the summer. Gross!

Anonymous said...

I'm always glad to see this subject discussed, as it is indeed a feminist issue. It's absolutely ridiculous that women wear these instruments of torture and some of them consider it a badge of honor.

A few years ago a podiatrist, a woman who couldn't resist high heels herself, said that they were "two-hour shoes." You go to a party and wear them for two hours.

A shoe you can wear for only two hours?

Simon Doonan, the style director for Barneys, wrote an article on how to wear high heels. He suggested a glass of wine to dull the pain and practicing a few days before the event.

In the past, there have been attractive low heels, e.g., the court heel. If women refused to wear high heels, designers would be motivated to introduce new styles.

I agree that a completely flat shoe can be uncomfortable, but there's no reason for women to be struggling along on stilts.

The Librarian said...

I guess 'high heels' means different things to different people. There's a huge difference between 2 inches and 6. I don't feel comfortable in flat shoes (short, feel as if I'm waddling), but my boots today I wore only because I knew there was very little walking (only an hour or so at a time standing), and because they would give me confidence in delivering a workshop session. (They're purple, very elegant, 3 inch heels and higher than most I wear).

I never suffer pain, but I do spend a lot of time sitting at work. When I do walk, I stand straight and feel fantastic. Zoe said: "Why are they considered essential to look glamorous or attractive?" and I don't know generally, but I do know that they put a tilt on the pelvis that is akin to tightening the pelvic muscles, which is slightly arousing :-) and so we feel sexier and thus act sexier.

OK, your call on that one - and I suspect it's only the 3 inch or higher that tilt it that much. LIke StyleSpy, I'm going to get on with wearing my heels, and neither defend, nor apologise for them. Those who don't, don't Those who do, do.
Vive la difference.

desertwind said...

I'm short, but have never worn heel or platforms above two inches (max!). Perhaps it's my feet's high arch or just a family thing since my even shorter Ma & sisters don't wear them either. But I just never got the hang of it.

That said... and I haven't really been sure why... I've found myself getting physically angry at the shoes out there now. I catch my blood boiling to see the girls falling down on the runway and the women on the Sartorialist walking on tip-toe.

There's got to be something between a ballet flat & a 5-inch heel, no?

miss cavendish said...

I do love the look of high heels and for me, a truly comfortable look is the covered platform. I have two pairs: gray Loeffler Randall shoe-booties and chestnut Whyred shield-shoes that look chic and are utterly easy to walk in.

J. Cochran said...

I've often thought of this as one, small way that women are superior to men. Professionally, we do everything the they do, except we do it while walking in heels. : )

Gi said...

I do not wear anything but heels, period. Except my trainers and my flip-flops for the beach.

Regardless of what people say about comfort, I wear heels because they make me feel and look better (being 5'2", with a very petite build). For me, my heels are as important as my outfit. I feel frumpy in flats.

Toby Wollin said...

I was just in London and had to do a certain amount of walking; even shoes that are pretty comfortable where I live (where I don't have to do a lot of walking) were excruciating on London cement. First stop: Clarks on Oxford Street for a comfortable pair of shoes. Make all the difference in my trip, believe me.

Anonymous said...

I have learnt my lesson: no more high heels (preferably less than 2 inches). But it is possible to have glamorous shoes that aren't high my faves being pewter Louboutins with pointed toes, inch and a half stilettos and straps so they don't fall off when you dance or last summer's Betty Jackson wooden platfoms (flat as pancakes) with teal patent straps. These are the ultimate party shoes - almost as comfortable as going barefoot.

Check out this season's Rosetti patent brogues for flat and fab.

Vinaigrette girl said...

The mythos of the high heel contributes to what is a socially divisive and very unpleasant tendency to judge books by the covers; to judge people by their external dress sense. So the snobbery involved in saying "...[I] loathe "sensible shoes" of the type you see women on tour buses wearing and trainers. God I loathe trainers... Horrible things - and those awful brightly coloured sandals you see some women wearing in the summer. Gross!" is itself "horrible".

Designer shoes don't come in a D width; for those of us who actually use our feet for walking and working, and who define ourselves independently of the male gaze, that kind of misogyny and judgementalism is just another burden of pointless, dispiriting criticism. The whole shoe fetishism of fashion is not only a drain on the pocket, and not only bad for the feet, it's socially unhealthy.

So maybe Cornwall values need exporting: it is possible to be a human being of attractiveness and value without crippling your feet or trying to prove your social superiority to other women by what you have ON your feet.

Deja Pseu said...

I'm late to the discussion, but in response to Style Spy, I think some of the anger isn't directed at wearers of heels themselves, but at the lack of choice currently; it's really tough finding cute shoes with less than a 3" heel.

Anonymous said...

My biggest complaint about heels is that designers should realize that a 4 inch heel on a size 8 is different than the same size heel on a size 5, and they should make adjustments for smaller feet. I love heels and just can't wear certain shoes because the arch is so high I tip forward.

Gayle said...

See these feet? I am in my late 60's and my feet are beautiful. My mani-pedi tells me every time. It's because I don't wear heels. THESE ARE HAPPY FEET!

Now how come we don't make every man wear a pair of heels for 8 hours?

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with Anon 17:29 of March 25. Women with smaller feet just cannot wear super-high heels because they are left literally walking on their toes.

I also agree about the lack of choice in heel heights. I used to happily run around in 2 1/2 inch heels all day. Now those are "frumpy." I mean . . ?!?!? Just because I literally can't balance in heels over 3 inches, does that mean I'm supposed to write myself off as a woman? How ridiculous. How shallow. I would love it if I could find great shoes with lower heels, so I would have some CHOICE again.

What I think makes some womens' blood boil is seeing how slavishly other women agree to stumble around in barely-wearable heels in the name of being fashionable. The market they create enables a vicious cycle of fashion designers producing ever-more unrealistic shoes. I just want cute heels I can wear all day! Why is that a BAD thing??

julia said...

the first time i met my husband we got into a discussion of shoes and he said: "high heels are designed to alter a woman s posture so that she stand differently, her tits stick out and her bum too"
i thought then and i believe now that he was right-albeit a great fan of high heels.
i dont know the history of high heels but i believe they were first worn by men to give them stature)will look into this).
what is my point? that high heels have a history and that history is there whenever we wear them-sometimes history is good, sometimes very unpleasant, but is always there and we can t do away with it-we can though alter it a tad to fit our needs (politicians do it daily).
thus: same with shoes.
we have flats, not so flats, medium, high, ultra high, ridiculously high....we have our pick.
ok, and yes, sometimes, high heels are a pain, they do your toes in, they play havock on your back and waist.
but the damn things can be very sexy at times.
(this from a person who goes about barefoot the entire summer months (i climbed half a mountain in bare feet-they dont slip and slide as do shoes and u get a better grip on rolling stones) but tonight it s going to be black open-toe high heels.)
so, go figure....:)

julia said...

the first time i met my husband 7 yeras ago we got into a discussion of shoes and he said: "high heels are designed to alter a woman s posture so that she stands differently, her tits stick out front and her bum out back"
i thought then and i believe now that he was right-albeit a great fan of high heels.
i dont know the history of high heels but i believe they were first worn by men to give them stature (will look into this).
what is my point? that high heels have a history and that history is there whenever we wear them-sometimes history is nice, sometimes very unpleasant, but it is always there and we can t do away with it-we can though alter it a tad to fit our needs (politicians do it daily).
thus: same with shoes.
we have flats, not so flats, medium, high, ultra high, ridiculously high....we have our pick.
ok, and yes, sometimes, high heels are a pain, they do your toes in, they play havock on your back and waist.
but the damn things can be very sexy at times.
(this from a person who goes about barefoot the entire summer months (i climbed half a mountain in bare feet-they dont slip and slide as do shoes and u get a better grip on rolling stones) but tonight it s going to be black open-toe high heels.)
so, go figure....:)