The Shoe Culture

Whenever I wear 5 inch heels at my office, I get an abundance of looks and the occasional inquiry, “How do you walk in those?” Of course my initial response is “Very well, thank you.” The last thing I want anyone to know is how hard I concentrate on not tripping while teetering around. I make it look effortless and completely second-nature, that is until my heel gets caught on something. Perhaps a better question would be to ask, “Why?” Why do I perform a balancing act just to walk around in heels higher than a hotel in Dubai? The simplest answer is… because I can.

We’ve already touched upon how heels empower us to feel confident, sexy, in control, but they also project those same things to others. The red sole of a Louboutin instantly clues an observer to what kind of woman the wearer is, or the woman who wears a chunky heel versus the women in the stiletto. Shoes have a culture all their own: as a status symbol, power trip, sign of maturity, etc… The list is endless.

When I was a child, every year around this time my father’s company would host their annual Christmas party; and, as tradition dictated (not to mention multiple growth spurts) I got a new dress with shoes to match. For me the dress was always inconsequential, in fact I can barely remember any of them. BUT THE SHOES. I remember, when I was 8, it was the 1st year my mother let me wear party shoes with a heel without straps. A shoe with a heel without straps was the equivalent of being given the keys to a new car. They were the height of maturity. It meant I was now old enough to wear heels that didn’t require extra bits to keep them on my feet. I was officially a little lady. Of course, now I love Mary Janes and am very grateful for that strap, but the symbol has stuck with me as has the memory of those 1st pair of heels. (Did I mention they were 1 1/2 inches high? very glamorous for an 8-year-old)

Even in  broader sense, shoes have come to be a dividing line between classes. When depicting destitution, an image of a barefoot child is invariably used. The absence of shoes tells us as much their presence. If i were to ask anyone on the street to describe Oliver from beginning of Olivier Twist, undoubtedly, most, if not all, would say barefoot. ON the flip side, if asked to describe the Artful Dodger, barefoot wouldn’t even be mentioned. Why? Because Dodger sees himself as a gentleman, and a gentleman wears shoes.

When present shoes can be a deciding factor, if subconsciously, in our opinions of others. Female politicians are judged upon their shoes. They have to be able to find a pair that doesn’t make them look too wealthy, too sexy, or too masculine, AND they have to have a heel. It can be just 2 inches, but it has to be there. Beyond the shoe itself, heel height is the source of femininity and power.

Feminist have argued that stilettos are a form of female subjugation and trivialize women as mere sex symbols. Perhaps that has become true, but it is historically inaccurate. Heels were created by men for men. They displayed poise and balance while showing off calf musculature (remember hose was originally worn by men as something to be seen not hidden under a skirt). Henry VIII was noted in fact for being very proud and vain regarding his legs and regularly wore heeled shoes to present them to their best advantage. Given that pedigree is it really so unusual that in the age of micominis, women would want to give every lift they could to their gams? The high heel, while now considered more of a feminine attribute, still displays the wearer as poised and balanced. AND, if she is very good, graceful. So a female politician, CEO, etc… must wear a shoe with a heel because not only are they in charge, but they do all that a man is doing but in heels.

Which brings me back to why I wear skyscraper heels… Because I can, and I walk in the very well, thank you.

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