Australian women may be among the most liberated in the world, but they’re turning back the clock when it comes to the footwear they choose to wear to work, according to theSydney Morning Herald columnist and leading Australian feminist, Anne Summers.
Summers suggests that the current crop of women shoe fashions are not only crippling, they’re regressive.”It’s like foot binding – except women are doing it to themselves,” agrees former Vogue editor
-in-chief, Kirstie Clements.
Clements points out that shoe designer Louboutin’s original shoe, the classic Pigalle pump, “made women walk sexily, looked beautiful and was comfortable”. They had 8.5-centimetre heels.
Today Louboutin’s lowest heel is a lofty 10 centimetres.
These shoes are uncomfortable – “they cripple you before you even leave the house,” Clements says. Models at Alexander McQueen’s 2010 spring show refused to walk down the catwalk wearing his Alien shoes after several were hurt, one requiring knee surgery.
So, if women whose job descriptions require them to don extreme outfits are refusing to wear such shoes, why are ordinary women embracing them with such enthusiasm? Why would a woman who is trying to be taken seriously as a manager or executive wear footwear that belongs in a bordello?
Long gone are the days when women adopted power suits with shoulder-pads and often added ties, in an effort to blend into the workplace. Today women executives want to be feminine but what is on offer from the men who make shoes – and they are all men: Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin et al – is neither flattering nor womanly.
“It has turned into misogyny,” says Clements who suggests that there is a reverse correlation between the height of women’s heels and their success in the wider world. “It’s hard to think and perform when you are in constant pain,” adds Clements.
Current shoe fashions pose a dilemma for women in leadership positions: how to look good while doing their jobs effectively.
The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has mostly abandoned stilettos for lower, thicker heels. She undoubtedly recognised it would be difficult to be taken seriously in her job – reviewing the troops and so on – if she could not walk with ease and authority.
Julia Gillard, too, has had to be pragmatic; she generally adopts a judicious compromise between style and utility by wearing low heels, but even those let her down this week. It must be galling for her, constantly walking a political tightrope, to have to give a second’s thought to what she puts on her feet.