I’ve made an executive decision: I can no longer wear high heels. It's not a decision I make lightly, despite my troubled relationship with them. I admit, I’ve never been great with high heels. My balance is precarious at the best of times, not to mention after I’ve had a few drinks. Perhaps it’s my weak ankles or perhaps I don’t have enough core strength. Whatever it is, I don’t have it. I feel less of a woman, a faulty specimen, because I am not apt at wearing heals.
It's a negative cycle. How many times have I fallen in love with a pair of gorgeous, strappy stilettos only to bring them home to discover they are tiny sadomasochists for my feet? It's so disappointing. I wonder: is it them or me? Each time I hope it will be different, but it never is, and resultantly I have a cupboard full of beautiful heels that I rarely wear. I keep throwing money at them. It's a bad relationship that needs to end.
I keep waiting for high heels to go out of fashion, like solariums and hair perms. Wearing high heels serves no practical purpose and is clearly bad for your health. Long term use can lead to shortened muscles, leg cramps and back pain, not to mention the usual blisters and abrasions. Surely people will tire of heels, I think. Yet the fashion persists decade after decade, as each new generation of women takes up the mantle. These high heels are persistent. They keep hanging around.
It's because they are so good looking. Who doesn't love the look of a high heeled shoe? They are so sexy and elegant. They lift you up and make you feel tall. They lengthen your legs and add swagger to your step. They add authority to your outfit. The best shoes are lavish….and tall. They are impractical: something you want but don’t really need, like dessert. They are frivolous, superfluous and fun.
But wearers be warmed! By wearing high heels you are not only risking your health, you are also flirting with danger. If there is an emergency, you cannot run quickly. If you are pushed, you cannot hold your ground. If it is slippery, you will fall. But you already know this. You’re a woman. You’re used to feeling vulnerable. By wearing high heels you are saying to the world:
“I laugh in the face of danger because I am brave!”
“It won’t damage my back because I’m young!”
“I’m in control and I have long legs!”
By wearing high heels you are living on the edge...of your feet.
I can't help being attracted to high heels. We associate risky behaviour with being sexy. Strangely, wearing high heels seems to be the only risk-taking behaviour we encourage in women. It’s considered an acceptable level of risk. It's so ingrained in our society, that we don't think twice about wearing them. In fact, it's expected. The more impractical they are, the sexier they look! Without them I feel lost and confused, unsure of what the dress code entails. That's why saying farewell to my well-heeled friends is difficult to do, even though I know they're bad for me.
Breakups can be difficult but at least I know I'm not alone. Kristen Stewart made headlines earlier this year for going barefoot at the Cannes film festival. She was protesting against the expectation that women must wear high heels in order to gain entry. In 2015 several women were reportedly denied access to a Cannes premiere because they were wearing flats. They were left out in the cold because they dared to break the rules. Although it's an unwritten rule, it's a pervasive rule. It can be difficult to go against the rules, especially when you feel like you are the only one.
It's a common misconception that a woman without heels is not dressed up enough, despite the effort she may go to with her clothing, hair, makeup and jewellery. The time and money women spend on their appearance in preparation for formal engagements goes far beyond what most men would endure, even without the inclusion of high heels. Perhaps women also need to be in pain to show that they really care about their appearance.
Personally, I’ve come to the realisation that I don't need high heels to feel good about myself. I have way more fun when they are not around. I have more confidence when my feet are planted securely on the ground. I just wish I’d walked away sooner.
About the author
Leah is a financial professional turned artist. She creates artwork about fashion, feminism and family. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram @leahmarianiartspace. To sign up for Leah Mariani's art updates click here.