The main questions we often ask ourselves – why we love shoes that hurt us? Are high heels all about sexual advantage, since they elongate and exaggerate the female form? Or is there another explanation? What liberates women and what shackles them, when it comes to shoes?
Let’s listen to Nancy Rexford the author of “Women’s Shoes in America: 1795 to 1930.”
Women’s willingness to tolerate discomfort, even pain, in the service of fashion is often chalked up to the desire to attract a mate or to rise a step in the social hierarchy. But today’s extreme fashions may have more to do with expressing power and control — control over one’s own body, and the power to use one’s body to draw the gaze of others.
In an age of slovenliness and fat, simply being thin is a mark of status, and high heels emphasize the advantage by lengthening the leg. Add platform soles, and you rise superior to a wasteland of waddling sweatshirts and dumpy athletic shoes.
But fashion elements like high heels don’t mean the same thing from age to age. In Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” Meg March wore “high-heeled” shoes to a ball and paid for her folly by turning her ankle. Alcott used the scene to show that Meg was in danger of “falling” if she allowed herself to be seduced by fashionable society. In fact Meg’s dangerous heels were probably only one inch high — they still exist by the demure hundreds in museum collections. But after nearly fifty years when women’s shoes often had no heels at all, they were enough to challenge Alcott’s vision of ideal womanliness.
A century later, by contrast, the spike heels of the 1950s reflected both modern technology and the inevitable swing of fashion toward elegance after years of wartime practicality. But they also encouraged women to see themselves as domestic ornaments rather than productive workers.
Since the late 1960s, fashion has never managed to regain the monolithic hold it had on earlier generations. Fashionable suffering is no longer obligatory as it was for our grandmothers, and if a woman wears cruel shoes, we can be sure it is by choice.
Our conclusion is – make smart footwear choices for your foot type — such as dropping down half an inch in heel height for stability, selecting shoes with padding, and alternating your heel height daily. Never wear a shoe that doesn’t allow you to walk normally. Keeping your feet healthy and comfortable does not mean giving up fashion.
Source: The New York Times