The height of feminism? Or do high heels demean women as sex objects? Well, yes, according to consultants brought in by one of London's top law firms.
They advised scores of female lawyers that teaming a pair of stilettos with a skirt was the best way to look feminine and professional. We asked five leading commentators whether they agree Once life was so simple: In the Fifties, when sex and babies went together, we went to parties to catch a husband, put on the highest heels the shoemaker could manage, dabbed scent behind our ears, cinched in our waists, told our boyfriends we were virgins and that was the way we meant to stay, then waited for them to capitulate and propose.
You were a walking, talking honeytrap, in competition with other women for the best genetic material. Heels were a weapon of war. By the end of the Sixties, heels were still a weapon, but the battleground had shifted. I was told by a boss: So I took to wearing stilettos, which intimidated men as well as entrancing them. Heels turned you into a sex object. If you ran, you fell. That was the charm. Then you either lay where you fell or whacked him with them. But by then the mating game was changing.
Thanks to the Pill, women were in charge of their own fertility: Women were beginning to do the picking and choosing. Men wore floral shirts, flares and grew long hair in the hope of getting some attention. In the Seventies, feminists suggested women should stop all this Darwinian competition with each other and be sisters. They should scowl at men, not smile, forget the lipstick, throw away the heels and wear bovver boots. For a time it worked — and a lot of men went along with it, though probably for fear of not getting any sex.
But in no time, the theory was at an end, and a short skirt with a pair of long silky legs in high heels dangling from the bar stool were back in town. There was a change, though — buy me dinner by all means, the girls seemed to be saying, but you still might get no loving.
By the Eighties, you could have a job and keep yourself, so who needed men at all? Shoulders grew wider as women took on male burdens.
Stiletto heels still punctured the parquet floor of the office, but it was your office. High heels taunted men. Have it your way. You needed your money for the gym, labels, parties, shoes. But the older you got, the pickier you got, and Mr Right eluded you constantly. The new century looked like being the age of accomplished, charming, independent singletons. The black dress, glossy hair, skinny body and self-confidence of those high, high, architectural heels. Sixty years on, the Darwinian competition for men fades.
But rivalry between women never went away. It just got fiercer. What if the next girl is skinnier than you, sexier than you, taller than you? And that fashion lately for really big bags? So you can get to a party in comfort and put heels on when you get there. We are not idiots. But still I bought these great big statement shoes. The answer is simple: I have been brainwashed by the fashion industry into believing these outrageously expensive and perilously high shoes will make me happier.
Very high shoes make you feel tired, depressed, desperately sore and powerless. You feel weak in these shoes. What if a man were to run up behind you on a dark street? What if a pavement were to involve cobbles?
These outrageous shoes are there for one purpose only: These shoes have spread to every precinct in the land, prompting condemnation of young women who all seem hopelessly drunk. The big lie, of course, is that the more expensive brands are so well made and balanced that they are comfy, and therefore worth the extra money. In the interest of research, I have tried them all — from Manolo Blahnik to Jimmy Choo to Christian Louboutin — and they all make me want to leave a party early so I can go home to immerse my swollen feet in a washing-up bowl of ice-cold water.
These shoes can ruin your life. I wore 6in Bottega Venetas with a Swarovski heel on my wedding day and I can safely say they ruined it for me: I was so uncomfy and keen to sit down I rushed my vows. These bondage shoes are the modern equivalent of the hobble skirt: I have lost count of the number of women I have met recently who have developed back problems, or have strained their ankles.
On most of us — unless we are very young and tall — these monstrosities look ridiculous. Where once she skipped in her kitten heels and stilettos, she now crawls. What more evidence do you need that, like cigarettes and alcohol, these fashion items should come with a health warning. The most beautiful heels I possess are almost all designed by Manolo, but more than that he understands what it really is about heels that matters — height is the enabler, not the star performer.
Early on in my life I realised that heels were transformative — they not only gave me extra inches, but they raised the bar in so many ways for my attitude, posture, confidence and femininity. Life in heels is simply different to that in flats. The slide of your toe forward should be balanced by the pitch of the heel at the back, which in turn is balanced by the width of that heel.
Shoes with an indented waist to the heel tend to flatter a woman in a dress: They may be slightly less practical than a pair of trainers to negotiate the train or to chase after a child, but practicality is not at the top of the list of what a heel devotee treasures.
We love the way that on a fine heel the width of the hip looks enticing rather than frumpy, swaying slightly as we walk. We like the way they raise our eye level and gaze if we are short, or they make us tower unusually above the masses if we are tall all very tall girls look fabulous in heels.
We like either the touch of the gangly Bambi-style leg we are temporarily endowed with if we wear those insanely high gladiator-style shoes of the moment, or that the swell of the calf is flattered in the more conventional court. Who could not crave the fun-loving heels of Jimmy Choo, the classic courts of Rupert Sanderson or the high voltage, red-soled glamour of Christian Louboutin?
A pair of beautiful heels draw all eyes to them you will be amazed by how much time people spend looking at your feet. They invest you with a feeling of being special that can never be achieved in a pair of flat pumps, which most likely resemble something you wore in the playground, or at best, childhood parties.
Flats are for children. Real women wear heels. DEMEAN To those of us who see beauty as balance, Gwynnie had sold out When Gwyneth Paltrow minced on to the red carpet last year shedding her mumsy mantle in a succession of vertiginous Giuseppe Zanotti shoes, everyone marvelled that she had re-booted her style icon status. Of course, tottering on 4in spikes elongated her legs to infinity, thereby supposedly reigniting her sexuality. But to those of us who see beauty as balance — and not a balancing act on skyscraper stilettos — Gwynnie had sold out.
I felt betrayed because I thought she, more than most, understood that being attractive is about authenticity, not artifice, about being comfortable and at home in your own skin. Yet what could possibly be less natural and more constraining than staggering around on matchstick heels where you have to watch every teensy step.
There is no going with the flow, no confident striding out and running for the bus or sprinting down the beach — because high heels are impractical and controlling. They set the pace, not you. The only time I tried to impress in sky-high slingbacks was on a date in New York.
To me, serious heels just signal geisha girl status: Comfy is the new cool. EMPOWER Shoes become power I gave up wearing high heels five-and-a-half years ago — not out of choice but because a car accident wrecked my ankle to such an extent that heels became impossible. I cast my eyes round my wardrobe — high heels in all colours and styles were neatly arranged in rows along the bottom, as well as from specially made containers which hung inside the doors. I miss being able to wear high heels, in much the same way as I would miss being able to have my hair streaked blonder and my nails manicured.
They are also undeniably sexy, giving shape and tension to calf muscles, allowing a woman to cross her legs and casually, but provocatively, to swing her shoe gently from her dangling foot. Shoes become power in those moments — power to distract, disarm and seduce. A man lost in momentary lust is liable to agree to anything from a raise to a promotion. In the Seventies, feminists were always derided for wearing boiler suits and boots — which I think meant wearing any sort of footwear that involved a sturdy sole and laces.
I was never that sort of feminist — the highest pair of heels I ever bought, a pair of bright green Yves Saint Laurent sandals with 5in heels , was in I remember buying them with a sense of defiance. I wore them with pride, not to hide my feminist politics, but to say: Do I feel diminished in my post-heel days? But I think that has more to do with feeling comfortable with myself and with where my life is right now.
If I was still single and working daily in an office where power-dressing counts, then my inability to add those extra inches, and all that goes with them, would hurt and to hell with the bunions. Share or comment on this article: Most watched News videos.