March 14, 2013
High heels and distinction among women
Sociologist Lisa Wade, on her Sociological Images blog writes about the connection she sees between high heels and high socioeconomic status and privilege. She explains her theory of why high heels (including designer brands costing more than a thousand dollars) are displayed so predominantly in retail stores even though they get only about “1% of feet time.” Wade says, “Certain class advantages make it easier for upper middle class and wealthy women to don high heels. High heels can really only be worn routinely by women who don’t work on their feet all day (I’ll grant there are dedicated exceptions). Valet parking makes it a whole lot easier to wear shoes that hurt to walk in, so does not having to take the bus. Having money, in itself, means that nothing stands between you and buying things that are impractical. So, high heels function to differentiate women who can afford to be impractical with their footwear — both monetarily and in practice — from women who can’t. This, I think, is why the highest, spikiest heels are at the front of the shoe store. In a certain way, they signify status.” She also reminds us of the history of high heels and how, before high heels were ever associated with women, aristocratic men wore them to indicate their status above the masses. The history of shoes and clothing items as a reflection of both social class and gender expression (and thus a topic of special interest to feminists) is fascinating! For more about this, see this article from the BBC.