I heard a survey a few days ago on one of those dreadful radio morning shows. Most people agree that these make a woman appear more accomplished and successful. The answer? High heels.
Yes I know basing a woman’s worth on something as ‘trivial’ as fashion is so utterly demeaning. Except, have you ever tried to walk gracefully in high heels? I will toast to that accomplishment at any hour of the day.
(Side note here: as Tim Gunn mentions in his book A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style, when wearing high heels certain facts of life must be acknowledged. “The brutal truth is that if you wear high heels you must adjust your stride…if you walk like a pachyderm, even Christian Louboutin can do very little for you.”)
High heels are unforgiving, if you mess up in them, it is obvious. You stumble, it is apparent. You either glide graciously or trip terribly.
(Side note #2: Just for kicks I Googled “Should Christian women wear high heels?” Hee hee. I think my favorite response to that Google was a website that said, “eyeshadow is an intimacy that should be shared between husband and wife.”)
In talking with friends about wearing high heels one of them wisely quoted Amanda Bynes from She’s the Man, “Heels are a male invention designed to make it harder for women to runaway.”
That line sums up about half the arguments against wearing high heels. More on this to come.
I spent a lot of time on the internet this week reading articles about women wearing high heels. The perceived view of heels as either female empowerment or masculine degradation are what comprise almost every debate about this footwear.
Linda O' Keefe, author of, Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers and More, writes, "Physically, it is impossible for a woman to cower in high heels. She is forced to take a stand, to strike a pose, because anatomically her center of gravity has been displaced forward." (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1923)
I’ve written more than a few times about how a pair of heels gives me a feeling of power which seems counterintuitive when you consider all the things I cannot do in heels. I cannot walk long distances, I cannot run, I have to be extremely careful around grates, gravel, hills and especially grass. How is it possible that something that so limits my physical capabilities causes me to feel like I’m in control?
“High heels infuse the wearer with a sense of power; more importantly feminine power, not an offshoot of some masculine aspect.” (High Heels: 4 Inches Closer to Heaven by Arielle Abeyta)
Of course the flip side of the argument must be considered. Do heels point to the subjugation of women by men? Have women been tricked into wearing something that is little more than a gilded cage? Is modern heel wearing similar to ancient Chinese foot binding? I think there are most assuredly underlying currents of domination when it comes to shoes. Around 1000 A.D. at Saxon weddings, the father of the bride would present the groom with one of the bride's shoes, symbolizing transfer of his authority over her. The bride's shoe was then thrown to the bridesmaids; the one who catches it would be the next to marry. (http://users.powernet.co.uk/wingett/History1.htm)
However it is worth pointing out that in the history of the high heel just as many men have worn them as women, it is only in the 20th century and beyond that they have become an almost exclusive feminine accessory.
1154-1189 A.D. King Henry II of England popularizes shoes with narrow, pointed toes. Legend says they hid his deformed toes. (http://users.powernet.co.uk/wingett/History1.htm)
Around 1500 A.D. heels were invented as a way to keep men’s feet more firmly in stirrups.
“Since their Venetian birth, high heels have been markers of the privileged. In the sixteenth century, both men and women of the leisure class wore heeled shoes as high as thirty inches. In order to walk a servant on each side supported them.” (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1923)
Louis XIV “The Sun King” wore heels upward of five inches. He also decreed that no person’s heels could be higher than the king’s and that only nobility could wear red heels. (http://www.randomhistory.com/1-50/036heels.html)
So class distinction is also what this shoe conveys. That is why the survey at the beginning of this post starts to make sense. Obviously in current times heel heights of thirty inches seem ludicrous. However just this past year the Alexander McQueen Spring 2010 collection featured shoes with 12 inch heels, take a look at some pictures.
Not only heel height but shoe size, indicate social status. Surveys have proven that over 85% of women are purposefully wearing a smaller shoe size than is comfortable for them. Not entirely shocking for generations of women that have been raised on the Cinderella myth. A story where the handsome Prince Charming looks for a woman who has the smallest and daintiest feet in the kingdom. Only she who can fit into the miniscule glass slipper is worthy of being his bride. With the average shoe size of the American woman being an 8 they, like the ugly step-sisters in the old Grimm fairytale are cutting off their heels and toes to try to fit the shoe.
So what do we have? The high heel as a symbol for female and class oppression. Well, maybe. The meaning of a thing changes with time. Symbols, words, all these things can take on different shapes over the course of years. Besides I kind of think common sense has to enter in at some point. You either choose to wear heels or not. If you feel like you absolutely have to or you are going to die OMG!!!! Well perhaps there might be a teeny little underlying problem that no amount of flats will fix.
And finally what does the Bible say about high heels? Well I think everyone is very familiar with the passage in 1 Timothy 2 about women adorning themselves in modest apparel. So guess what that means? It’s a matter of common sense and Christian Liberty. My favorite.
Now, if you will excuse me I have some high heels to wear.
P.S. Follow me on Twitter @RccFashion
P.S. Follow me on Twitter @RccFashion