The Height of Fashion
Thursday, October 24, 2013 • 10:32pm
They say when you fall off your horse you should pick yourself up and get right back on. I am not sure the same advice should be applied to high heels.
I don’t have much personal experience in these sorts of shoes, although I did try walking on a pair of stilts once. But I must say, they don’t look comfortable. And as an impractical fashion item, I put heels right up there with neckties. The difference is, I don’t think it is possible to pull a calf muscle wearing a necktie.
But as a man, I certainly understand the womanly appeal of high heel shoes. So who am I to argue with fashion?
The other night I picked up my daughter from a formal Bat Mitzvah reception for one of her friends. A throng of thirteen-year-old girls stood outside the venue awaiting their rides home. Because of their age and the nature of the occasion, they were in various stages of young womanhood, and many wore touches of makeup, coiffed hair, fashionably short skirts, and heels.
Yet wobbling atop uncertain shoes in dresses not yet held in place by fully developed curves, the girls moved less like women and more like apprentice supermodels strutting a runway of hot coals.
Still, I took their grown up appearance as a wake up call. I have some worry-free time left, but not much.
I knew many of these girls—my daughter’s friends from school, from soccer, from the neighborhood—but in the dark and in their womanly attire, it was hard to single anyone out.
One girl stood a head taller than the others. She flashed long, elegant girlish legs under a stylish dress that I knew would give some poor father extreme agita in a year or so.
Of course, I soon realized the young woman with the long thin legs was my daughter and her equally stylish companions were school friends I have known since kindergarten.
That is when I fell off my horse.
The agita of some poor father came much sooner than I expected.
Being a protective dad, I have mixed feelings about high heels, particularly when I envision them on the sashaying legs of my thirteen-year-old daughter.
So I was very relieved to learn that in fact she was not wearing high heels. She is naturally tall, and fortunately—for me—does not have much interest in adding another two inches in height at this point in her life. Or a boyfriend either for that matter.
She still believes dressy shoes should not prohibit a spontaneous game of tag.
As I said, I still have some time left. But not much.
But it is clear that fashionable high heels and all they convey will soon be in my future. And I had better get with the program.
Oddly, long ago it was men who wore high heels. I like to think my male forbearers wore heels to help them stand steadily in the stirrups of galloping horses without falling off. But it seems these dandies also wore wigs, makeup, poofy shirts, and hosiery.
Later they also festooned silk neckties.
High heels didn’t really become a women’s fashion item until fourteen-year-old Catherine de Medici decided to boost her stature a couple of inches through elevated shoes. Apparently she was betrothed to the King of France and worried that she might not appear tall enough to command respect as Queen.
At fourteen years of age, it might have been better if she had just attended his Bar Mitzvah and left it at that.
Nevertheless, women of privilege throughout Europe soon embraced the uncomfortable shoe as fashion. The long thin heels accentuated naturally feminine sways and raised hoop skirts to previously unseen levels, at least unseen by men.
And in a few short years the foot fetish was born.
Two hundred years later Marie Antoinette donned two-inch heels to her execution and emerged at the end of the day a head shorter. The outcome did little to stem the popularity of high heels.
Not even the thick-heeled Puritans could thwart the fashionable footwear.
But it wasn’t until the short skirts of the Roaring 20s hit the scene that the tall pointed heel secured its place as a highly charged fashion statement among expressive women and the large population of admiring men who relished the long striking view between ground and hemline.
Which somehow brings me back to my daughter.
I don’t want her to fall off a horse or marry the King of France at 14 or lose her head or become a Puritan.
But I do want her to stand tall.
And if she chooses to do that in high heels, well I guess I am OK with that.
Just as long as she wears longer skirts.