Kick the heels

Kick the heels

Style hurts

Kick the heels

Nothing speaks sophistication like high heels. In fashion circles, the height of your footwear is seen to be directly proportional to your class! Which is why celebrities and fashionistas fall for these beauties — both literally and figuratively. From Sushmita Sen to Jennifer Lawrence to Lady Gaga, many a diva have taken a tumble while tottering on their heels. But that has not dented the popularity of this fashion symbol.

However, in recent times, footwear has been occupying an important part of the limelight. Julia Roberts created quite a stir when she walked the red carpet of the Academy Awards barefoot recently. The prestigious function had an unwritten dress code of ‘heels only’ which Roberts flouted, saying that ascending the stairs in her sky-high heels was a lot of work which many are interpreting as a protest against the festival’s strict dress code. The same venue saw an unsavoury incident last year when several women were turned away at a movie screening for not wearing heels. Social media erupted in rage and the organisers promptly issued an apology.

Recently, a photograph of the bloodied feet of a waitress went viral on social media. The lady had to keep wearing heels for a full shift at her work in a restaurant, to the point that she lost a toe nail. What is more, the lady was told by her supervisor that she would have to wear the same footwear for the next day’s shift also as it was part of the dress code.

These, and many more events, have sparked an international debate on the issue of compulsory high heels at work and the need for women to wear something uncomfortable to prove their competence. Sexism and patriarchy are seen to be dictating these archaic rules for women while men have much more leeway in choosing their attire.
Says Aishwarya Khare, a professional, “High heels definitely enhance your personality and increase your confidence. However, it is a woman’s personal choice whether she wants to wear it or not, and thus, should not be made mandatory at work or black tie events.”

This choice is exactly what is lacking for many women at their workplaces. For example, a female employee at Portico was sent home without pay after refusing to wear heels for her job as a temporary receptionist. The incident so incensed her that she started a petition  for the practice to be made illegal, which has gained 1,23,000 signatures, forcing the company to change their policy.

It is an issue close to every working woman’s heart. Reasons stem from practical considerations to feminist outrage. Walking unsteadily on your stilettoes does not help the ‘powerful woman’ image you want to project. Power walking your way to the top can be easily done in flats too. Also, hurting feet make you less attentive to what is being said to you.

“Heels change your posture by making you stand on your toes. This is not good for your bones and can wreak havoc for your back as well,” says Aprajita Toor, a footwear and accessory designer and manufacturer. “In recent times, women are opting more for flats and wedge heels. Even in pencil heels, the 5 to 6 inch pencil heel has been replaced by 2-inch heels which combines style and comfort. For formal events, ballerinas and kitten heels are the favourites right now.” Detractors are plenty but loyal fans still swear by their sky-high heels.

Says Chithira Pillai, “I just love high heels. I love the way they make me tall and that automatically boosts my confidence. I agree that there is nothing as painful as standing in heels for 2 to 3 hours straight but as someone said about shoes ‘if it ain’t hurting, it ain’t helping!’ Pain is a small price to pay for style.”