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Join Date: Apr 2005
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High heels won’t help achieve high ambitions
September 19, 2009

High heels won’t help achieve high ambitions

Women are happy to teeter about on 4in spikes because they bring power and glamour. Sadly it’s all just an illusion

Janice Turner

There are times when I’m so baffled by my own sex that I wonder if I’m really a woman at all. The atelier of the fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg in Lower Manhattan has a central staircase like a waterfall, a four-storey cascade of slippy, shiny opaque glass.

If I had to schlep up it thrice daily I would wear a safety harness or at least hiking boots. But DVF’s luminous young staff — half of whom were ripely pregnant — picked their way down in 4in spike heels, striving to look insouciantly chic while gripping the banister and trying not to die.

I’d love to know what they would make of the TUC’s resolution, passed unanimously this week: “Congress believes high heels may look glamorous on the Hollywood catwalks but are completely inappropriate for the day-to-day working environment.”

It was carried, after all, to liberate gals in glitzy professions just like them, compelled by evil employers to totter about in back-breaking, bunion-breeders just to look decorous and sexy.

Although my guess is that no boss — except maybe a strip-club owner or a pimp — has ever issued such an explicit edict. Women inclined to work in ritzy boutiques or fashion houses do so for the limitless opportunities to wear ridiculous shoes at glorious discounts. If, say, the whole of Bond Street had a TUC-advised risk assessment that concluded “the wearing of high heels is hazardous . . .” and “should be replaced with sensible and comfortable shoes”, there would be a protest march. A very slow, mincing one, ending in a queue for plasters outside Superdrug.

So I called the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, which tabled the motion, to ask if it was inspired by members constantly getting earache from Vogue staffers or Stringfellows hostesses sick of their professional uniform code. The pleasant man said, er, no, but was I aware that the NHS spends £10 million a year on bunion correction alone? Yes, quite.

But was this motion — greeted with such indignation by puffed-up pygmies like the Tory MP Nadine Dorries — the true voice of hobbling womankind or not? And the nice SC&P guy said: “The other day at breakfast my delegation saw a party of cabin crew. And someone said: ‘Look, the men stewards have flat shoes and the women wear tottering heels. It doesn’t seem fair.’ ”

So bless the SC&P, as it sits stoically excavating verrucas, shards of the nation’s hard skin pinging into its eye, it just wanted to help. Except that those stewardesses probably thought they were being admired for their foxy legs, not having their feet professionally assessed for hammer toes. In any case, once aboard they change into union-approved flats or they’d pop the emergency slides.

Surely the SC&P must realise that, for most women, sensible has nothing to do with shoes. High heels are the irreducible symbol of female sexuality, how a little girl first imagines becoming her mother, the drag queen’s must-have. (What better preparation for Eddie Izzard’s 43 marathons than being a sometime transvestite: the lost toenails of a 1,000-mile run are as nothing compared with a night at the Baftas squeezed into Jimmy Choos.) Painful, ungainly, impractical they may be, but they are the only reliable props of female power. “The bigger the meeting,” an executive friend says, “the higher my heels.” They provide eye-to-eye equality with men, emit a beguiling batsqueak of sexuality in a grey-clad business world. In politics the flash of a leopard-skin slingback makes even scary marys such as Theresa May appear frivolously human.

Besides, in the recession, retailers say, women are buying ever higher shoes: perverse fantasies such as Louis Vuitton’s Cancan range or Nicholas Kirkwood’s podiatric sculptures. Grazia this week informs us of the rise of the pencil heel “so slim and high they are only for lying down in”. Perhaps women clinging to their jobs are striving harder than ever to assert their power — shoulder pads too are back in town.

Of course we have long worn ludicrous shoes for clip-clopping into clubs. But now I see young women tottering up Oxford Street from lunch to office, navigating escalators and exiting the Tube, Helmut Newton models in motion. Few follow that unsightly New York compromise of commuting in brick-like trainers, then shoving on sexy shoes at the door. Today female mystique can’t slip for a second.

And the cult of celebrity fashion icons and the ability to snap up quick, cheap copies of what Madonna or Angelina wore to the Oscars have led young women to forget that they are buying limo shoes for a bus-pass life. Their TUC motion would read: “We believe a bit of Hollywood and catwalk glamour is the only way to cope with the day-to-day of working life.”

No generation has so risked financial ruin or ill health in pursuit of fashion. What’s an aching arch for girls unqueasy about an acid facial peel. Now that Victoria Beckham has had her bunions — born of wearing 6in heels even while dragging the kids round Disneyland — removed surgically maybe they will switch from comedy old-lady ailment to badge of courage.

Running in heels is a female attainment, the ultimate triumph of grace under pressure, and the title of a new documentary about three interns battling for a job at US Marie Claire. Glamour magazine has actually staged races where readers risked broken ankles sprinting to the line.

So what does it say about those of us who have tried and failed even to walk in heels? Throughout those skittery Sex and the City years, I would pretend to coo over what I really regarded as caribou-coated instruments of torture. I even tried on Manolo Blahniks after I’d read that they are so cleverly designed that you forgot they are 4in high, but left empty-handed since they are not, after all, as comfy as the bust-up Crocs I’m wearing now.

Two-and-a-half-inch heels I can manage on a night out, with a taxi waiting and a husband to lean on. Working in magazines, I was expected to go higher. All my dust-coated shoeboxes from that long-gone age. But I want to stride out, to run — not to count down the minutes of my day until I can pull off my shoes and liberate my poor barking dogs. Heels are just an illusion of power, not the real thing. As I was reminded, at the top of that staircase when I met DVF herself, padding around in bare feet.


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I even tried on Manolo Blahniks after I’d read that they are so cleverly designed that you forgot they are 4in high, but left empty-handed since they are not, after all, as comfy as the bust-up Crocs I’m wearing now.
here's where I lost all interest in what she had to say...
thanks for the article!

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^ Funny because I stopped at

Women are happy to teeter about on 4in spikes because they bring power and glamour. Sadly it’s all just an illusion

But thanks for posting it Echoes!

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wow,how silly.

Current faves: Grace Elizabeth, Kendall, Maartje, Taylor, Lulu -. All-time faves: Christy ,Kate, Michaela, Rachel,Caroline
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Originally Posted by Legyviel View Post
here's where I lost all interest in what she had to say...
thanks for the article!

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How ignorant.

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Not Thinking About Time
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its a personal choice to wear heels. I don't wear mine to impress anyone but myself I love how the feel as well. My favorite pair of shoes and one of my most comfortable are a pair of 4inch wedges.


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many heels are comfortable. ^wedges are a great option too. i think heels, platforms, those few extra inches give a woman confidence and a feel of being glam.. nothing wrong with that

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I stopped reading when I read "crocs." What an annoying article.

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to be fair...
there is nothing less attractive than a woman who cannot walk in her shoes...
and some of the current styles of platforms, etc...
really are not conducive to getting around town...

i was out recently on a saturday night and found myself just cringing at all the young things tottering around in EXTREME heels and VERY short skirts...
they really just looked tragic...

so sad and so desperate in a way......

though i have no prob with heels, i also enjoy a flat...
it's all about the appropriateness of the shoe for the situation...
i was wearing a 4 inch marc jacobs boot which i could actually go running in...
paired with a little black dress about 2 inched above the knee
boots are MUCH easier to walk in - regardless of the height of the heel...
also- the thickness of the heel makes a world of difference...
spikes are MUCH trickier and can induce the aforementioned 'tottering'...

ps- a strong core ( abdominal muscles) and good posture makes it much easier to walk in very high heels ...
maybe that lady is just out of shape???

"It is not money that makes you well dressed: it is understanding."

Last edited by softgrey; 28-09-2009 at 01:25 PM.
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^ Softgrey, you have summed it up perfectly.

Heels are an aquired skill, some pick it up really easy, others can't get on with them no matter how hard they try. I am saddened when I see a woman wearing heels that are too high for her as it completely ruins her whole look, then again when you see a woman who really can walk in heels moving with grace and pose it is beautiful, and I don't mean the catwalk strut which is almost dangerous. Perhaps there should be evening classes for wearing heels.

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Nice read.

Thing is, there's another reason. A scientific reason why women should wear high-heels though I wont post it on here.

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Soft grey, I couldn't agree more. Wearing heels that you can't walk in is pointless and destroys the whole look.
Fashion should have at least some degree of praticality. There are plenty of really cute flats around.

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Originally Posted by ettebe View Post
Nice read.

Thing is, there's another reason. A scientific reason why women should wear high-heels though I wont post it on here.
The scientific (medical) reason I know of suggests just the opposite: that it is bad for your back and can haunt you years later.

The only one I know of that isn't against heels has something to do with the way women balance, making heels possible for them but awkward for men. that however, does not suggest wearing heels. What is this argument in favour of heels?

I'd rather be anything than ordinary.
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Once King
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i believe he was hinting at that Heels makes a girl butt look better. Which they do.

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