High heels break my heart. High heels are always beyond beautiful to me, and all the shoes I see and like tend to have ridiculously high heels. Iron Fist is my favorite guilty pleasure; they may be a bit Ed Hardy-ish, but MAN are they cute.
I am terrible at wearing high heels. It takes lots of practice; there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of articles out there about how to walk properly in heels. When I was friends with burlesque dancers, we used to practice walking around our city in high heels, and generally we’d be dead after about two blocks. I have a vision of wearing heels to my high school graduation and being in tears by the end of the ceremony because the straps had bloodied my feet.
heels so often their Achilles tendon shortens, and it becomes painful to wear flat shoes or go barefoot. They change your gait, make you walk more slowly and move toe-heel rather than heel-toe. It’s damaging to your knees, to your back, to your feet. If you’re not sitting down for at least 5-10 minutes every hour in heels, you run the risk of nerve damage in your feet; after a night out drinking in heels, my friend was forced to have surgery; the night ended in damage to the balls of her feet and almost necessitated the removal of two toes.
Still, I find myself hesitating every time I go to clean out my shoe collection. Part of a professional presentation as a woman often includes high heel shoes. I kid myself into thinking I might wear them out to dinner, or to a wedding (I won’t). They’re sometimes the only way to fancy up a boring outfit. Plus…they’re so pretty.
While reading Bad Feminist, one of the lines that’s stuck in my mind is about high heels and purses. To paraphrase author Roxane Gay, they’re pretty, but they were invented to slow women down. I agree with it, and I hate it.
The high heel shoe has a long and storied history. It’s been a symbol of societally enforced sexiness for hundreds of years. After all, an impractical shoe ensures women are physically slower and mentally preoccupied (either with how great they look, finding a great pair of shoes, or with how much pain they’re in).
I can’t think of many punk or hardcore bands where heels are present (with the fabulous exception of the New York Dolls). It’s tough to skank around if you can hardly walk; it’s tough to keep your balance when you’re already balancing. Punk, in my mind, after the 1970s, was mostly about function over fashion, rejecting societal norms and making that rejection a fundamental part of your presentation. Viv Albertine talks in her autobiography about wearing boots with dresses after she and a friend were chased and assaulted by a gang. It’s tough to run for your life in heels.
This morning I had a moment of sadness that I was opting for flats, after walking to my car at a snail’s pace in my favorite fancy pair of heels. But for me, I’m reminding myself today I can walk quickly and function well. That’s my tradeoff. And my heel collection, well…maybe that will be a tradeoff soon too.
But not one without regrets.