How Society Makes Wearing High Heels So Unfun

high heels

In the sphere that is glamour *sparkly emojis*, no accessory or item epitomizes the gift and the curse of being a slave to fashion more than the high heel shoe. This unanimous thought was again magnified at this year’s Cannes Film Festival when it was disclosed that women attending the prestigious event were told that wearing high heel footwear was an obligation. Flats were supposedly deemed unacceptable on the red carpet, and evidently for accompanying screenings and parties. Reportedly, this “flatgate” controversy was illuminated by the news that a few middle-aged women were denied entry to a Cannes screening of Carol because they were wearing incriminating flats. (Since when were Charlotte Olympia or Chanel ballet flats not good enough?)

The issue of the true nature and purpose of the high heel returned as a social focus. While women over the decades have been kinder to the item owning a space in the closet (you don’t necessarily have to wear a stiletto. A kitten heel is still a heel), is the presence of high heels really just a pathetic mini human torture chamber for the sake of looking pretty or a co-sign of female submissive inclinations, perpetuated by godless men?

Over at The Daily MailJanet Street-Porter (like many) joined the backlash against the reported new sartorial rule by Cannes. She took the hot topic as an opportunity to never forget that high heels were the enemy (at least in fashion):

High heels were designed by men to keep women in their place. They turn us into subservient beings, less able to run and defend ourselves.

These objects don’t empower women — on the contrary, by wearing them we admit we’ll do anything to appeal to a bloke, even cripple ourselves. How desperate.


But that Street-Porter excerpt shows the dichotomy that heels possess which is that they are powerless and powerful at the same time. Anyone that has worn them will tell you that as on edge as you are in heels (those things on cobblestone-LAWD HAVE MERCY), you also suddenly feel regal and potentially more rogue than ever (which can be a blast if you’re an introvert).

The Cannes Film Festival handed us the reminder that heels however do not become fun when we are told by society, and even lovahs, when we are supposed to wear them. Anyone can understand that for an event as glam as Cannes that heels would be imperative. We can trust a stylist on that one. But to them make mandatory for a woman to wear? Instantly those A-list Zanottis receive the ultimate glower of “dis bitch.”

Heels are meant to be fun to wear! Not to sound like a five-year-old rummaging through her mama’s closet, but it is a calmer way to look at them than through the feminist lenses. We aren’t exactly living in the Greek ages or Geisha-for-sale eras when heels were of a concubine lifestyle than optioned by-choice for free-spirited woman. The history of high heels has many shades and it has intrigued fashion historians for a long time. Are they purely sexualized items? But why are they also empowering? We stall at the idea of sex and power being dual positive attributes. And as women, many of us sometimes shiver at the idea of coming across as sexual object than a sexual being and the high heel is a representation of this battle, materialized.

shoes GIF

This past February, the Brooklyn Museum wrapped its exhibition (of the semi-too real titled) Killer Heels: The Art of the High Heel Shoe. From the time of the 16th century, 1950s old Hollywood and those impossible Alexander McQueen heelless numbers, heels have always emotionally invigorated, mesmerized and annoyed its anxious wearers. In the  research book Shoes: An Illustrated History, by Rebecca Shawcross, via The New York Post, shoes, particularly those with heels, symbolized a well-off lifestyle:

“Women’s platform shoes, or chopines, are thought to have originated with prostitutes in Venice. The shoes, which reached heights up to 18 inches, raised a woman above her rivals and gave her a sensuous gait for prospective clients.

Eventually they became popular among the aristocracy, both in Italy and the Ottoman Empire. They indicated that you were so wealthy you didn’t need to work, or really walk.”

Who knew that the argument of high heels would again come about at this year’s 2015 Cannes fest? Actress Emily Blunt even responded, at a press conference for her film Sicario, to the fury in stating: “I think everyone should wear flats, to be honest. We shouldn’t wear high heels anymore. That’s just my point of view. I prefer to wear Converse sneakers.” 

anime heels GIF

Yet, let’s be honest about one thing. Lots of us talking about “flatgate” here are likely in our feelings, though there is some merit. We know for sure we are not going to see Blunt in no Converses the next time she’s at award show season, no matter how fresh out the factory they may be. But the point is that a woman is no less sexy without heels (though heels are a in-yo-face boost) and that it sucks when women are told and demanded to wear heels than it be a suggestion.

Entertainment Weekly reported that the director of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux, issued an apology over the high heel controversy. Fremaux also confirmed that no such rule actually exists. The festival remains a “black tie” affair, but he remarked:

“Regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years (tuxedo, formal dress for Gala screenings) and there is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s.”

Ah, men have the luxury of no footwear height regulations either. Like the average man has any idea what’s like to have your feet literally cringe with every step you take because of shoes. If they do, they must be wearing Saint Laurent.

high heels GIF

The fashion at Cannes is always written and photographed about worldwide. But we were given a political angle this year when fancy bouncers wanted to belittle women for choosing preference over de rigueur. And the hilarious thing is, they were given hell over attending a screening. Who is checking for shoes when everyone’s there to watch Cate Blanchett‘s latest movie?

Let women rock heels when they damn feel comfortable and ready to walk all over you! And when are we gonna berate men for wearing “Constructs” and Jordans on date night? Where’s the “must-have” loafers disclaimer for them, hmm?

Please and thank you.

heels GIF

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