Have you seen yourself in those heels?

I posted this on my Facebook page in October 2009 and thought I would post it here as well considering not too much has changed in the last two years and we are still seeing women wearing ridiculous high heels.

Really stupid shoes

“Here is more on the high heels. From Grazia mag today. If you looked at them in terms of pure art, then they are great but as shoes they are stupid. Don’t you think that these girls look like clones – this photo helps to de-indivualise, trivialise and stupify these woman until they don’t look like real people at all. Why do some woman let designers propagate this image of woman that makes them out to be faceless bodies. Don’t woman realise that sometimes designers can make you look like a sexual object instead of a sexy person?”

Recently, my 13-year-old daughter’s school had a “father-daughter” dinner.  My daughter wasn’t going, but was amazed that many of the girls that were going, rushed out to buy the latest shoe fashion – 9 inch heels!  These are 13 and 14-year-old girls that we are talking about!  I have seen many young women walking around the streets in these heels and they might look good when they are standing still (debatable), but they just look silly when they are trying to walk in them.  It’s not a good look and I wonder if we took videos of them walking down the street and played it back to them if they would still wear these shoes?  Why are we wearing them anyway?  Because we think that our legs look longer and thinner in them and ultimately it makes up look better than if we wore “sensible shoes”, or shoes with a more realistic heel height.  Do they really think that men think that we look like we have are confident, intelligent, capable women when they see us stumbling about wearing shoes that can’t possibly be comfortable?  I don’t think so and I think that it is just a further attempt to sexualise, objectify and marginalise women in our society and keep them “shopping till they drop” as consumers instead of decision makers.

So who invented them?  According to Wikipedia “In ancient Rome, the sex trade was legal, and female prostitutes were readily identified by their high heels” [High Heeled Footwear, Wikipedia]. During the middle ages both men and women wore “pattens” which were something like high heels and “In the 15th century, chopines, a type of platform shoes, were created in Turkey and were popular throughout Europe until the mid-17th century. Chopines could be seven to eight or even 30 inches high, requiring women to use canes or servants to help them walk.  Like pattens, chopines were overshoes, but unlike the pattens, chopines were worn almost exclusively by women. They were usually designed with cork or wood stacked as the heel.” [High Heeled Footwear, Wikipedia] and these were mostly worn by women of high society and sounds like it would have stopped them for getting away in a hurry – basically stand there and look good and be looked at.  I won’t go on as you can read the history courtosy of Wikipedia, but suffice to say that they have become part of changing fashion and are now so intrenched in the economics of the fashion industry that it would be hard to shift women off them even with the known health ramifications of wearing them and even harder to stop fashion houses promoting them for fear of losing generous amounts of revenue.

They are the perfect consumer product:  they come in all colours, sizes and designs, materials and textures and best of all you can change the style of the latest fashion every season – meaning a constant stream of revenue for the fashion houses and department stores.  Returning to the photo above for a moment – it really disturbed me because although it is artistic, it does make those women into faceless canvasses looking more like a bunch of sheep than women in charge of their own fashion choice.  I know that they are models and you might say “well, isn’t that what they are supposed to do”?.  Well, yes as models they aren’t supposed to get more attention than the clothes, but who ever said that modelling the way that we do now was OK anyway?  Perhaps most women don’t want to be in charge of their own fashion choice and prefer to have the way they look dictated to them by someone else.  Problem that I see is that you are then handing over how you are perceived by others to someone else, and potentially how you perceive yourself as a consequence.

In her book “Slaves of Chic, Joanne Finkelstein (1994 ch ‘Retro’ pg 250 ) reminds us that “Fashion, which is totally reliant on the expansion of the economy, must generate new fashions which are instantly popular and recruit new followers” – hence we are driven to buy newer and more fashionable shoes and other garments to fund the fashion economy.   We all have to wear clothes and most of us, men included love being fashionable, but when it becomes clear that your fashion choices are not really your choices at all then I think we have a problem.  If you asked most young women why they wear super high heels what would they say?  Probably that they like them, that they look good in them etc.  They might also tell you that they love to shop and they love shoes – but is this really them or is it a consequence of what women are told that they love?  I don’t love to shop and maybe that is because I understand retail philosophy having been in retail myself.  I understand how retailers can plan where they want you to walk and what products they want you to focus on whilst you are in their store.

There is just way too much non thinking going on and for me, these higher than high heels are the result of non thinking consumer driven peer pressure to conform to a social fashion standard without thinking.  Whilst most men have a couple of pairs of shoes that do them for most things, women have been conditioned to believe that they are “shoe fiends” like it is OK to keep buying and buying shoes – and then we end up being slammed for it by our husbands and male friends and belittled as air heads in the media.  Hell there are television shows with leading ladies like Carrie in Sex in the City “that have given us full permission to hoard shoes instead of spending that shoe money on creating your own financial independence.

Then when a “fallen women” like Imelda Marcos (of the Philippines) falls from grace with her husband (ex-President Marcos), what are we all down on her for?  The incredible amount of shoes that she had – well why wouldn’t she?  Isn’t this how we have been conditioned?  Spend, spend, spend and buy shoes, the more upwardly mobile you are as a female the more expensive are the shoes that you can buy.  Express yourself through your shoes, make your friends envious – but buy the shoes!  So instead of focusing on the things that Imelda did that were good or not, we focused on the amount of shoes that she had – and guess what, we devalued her and ourselves even further by succumbing to the choices of others to trivilise us as “shopping women who like shoes”.  Worse still, instead of focusing on the damage that she and her husband did whilst in power, we focused on her shoe fetish choosing in a way to put the important stuff to one side to take a cheap shot at women in general and making a possibly intelligent and dangerous political animal like Imelda Marcos look like a air head bimbo.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to wear heels, as long as we understand our choice – and I would argue that if we did we wouldn’t buy anywhere near the amount of shoes that women (report) do buy.

I will leave you with this bit from Wikipedia.  The “new” definition of high heels.  Notice how what was previously “high” is now only “mid high” paving the way for the new “high heel” definition being higher than high and frankly ridiculous!

“According to high-fashion shoe websites like Jimmy Choo and Gucci, a “low heel” is considered less than 2.5 inches (6 centimeters), while heels between 2.5 and 3.5 inches (8.5 cm) are considered “mid heels”, and anything over that is considered a “high heel”” [High Heeled Footwear].



High Heeled Fashion – Wikipedia
Slaves of chic: An A-Z of consumer pleasures""” (Joanne Finkelstein 1994 ‘Retro’)
The Fashioned Self""” (Joanne Finkelstein 1991)

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