Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Woman's Right to Shoes

“I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.” Marilyn Monroe

 Recently I read that women are "wasting their time" trying to attract men by wearing high heels. "Experts" at Northumbria University have studied the male reactions when watching some women walking in high heels and others without heels, and found that... men can't tell the difference. No surprise there – after all, men generally say "and she wasn't wearing a scrap of makeup" when a casual observer of the female variety could practically name the shade of foundation. But isn't this study a little bizarre? When did women ever say that they were wearing high heels for the sole purpose of attracting men? While they may put a wiggle in the walk, they also make us taller (why do I know so many short men?) and slow us down, occasionally becoming so painful that piggybacks are necessary. Thus, men seem fairly ambivalent about them, at best.

Furthermore, it's widely known among women that men don't *get* fashion. I don't think any man has ever expressed admiration for women wearing Uggs, beige nail polish, smock dresses, harem pants or dungarees. So I guess we just like "wasting our time" wearing what we like.

The Classic Ten (by Nancy Macdonnell Smith) is a fascinating book and one of my very favourites for dipping into. It features chapters on the origins and enduring popularity of the little black dress, the suit, jeans, white shirt, high heels, trainers, white shirt, trench coat, pearls, and cashmere sweater. 

The chapter about heels and how you FEEL when you're wearing them might be educational for some;  the only socially acceptable way (in Texas, at least) that men can experience this sensation is by wearing cowboy boots.  Consider this excerpt from James Herlihy's novel Midnight Cowboy:

"Something snapped in the whole bottom half of him: a kind of power he never even knew was there had been released in his pelvis and he was able to feel the world through it. Brand-new muscles came into play in his buttocks and legs, and he was aware of a totally new attitude toward the sidewalk. The world was down there, and he was up here, on top of it, and the space between him and it was now commanded by a beautiful strange animal, himself, Joe Buck. He was strong. He was exultant. He was ready."

Remember when the Trade Union Congress tried to ban women from wearing heels (Sept 2009) and convince us to wear sensible shoes? THIS is why.


  1. If you don't like Page 3 (which I don't either)then you surely can't admire heels that cripple women, deform their feet and give them corns, bunions and blisters, that make it impossible to walk, that have to be taken off on the way home. Nothing can feel that bad and still be good. It seems to me like condoning Chinese foot-binding to say thee things are desireable; but then, I'm 5ft 10.

  2. I'm very thankful to live in a society where high heels are optional and footbinding is unthinkable - but I don't believe that heels are horrible things that only cause problems for women. Despite the odd blister, I think the aesthetics and the FEELING they give you goes some way to explain their popularity.