High Heels: Torture Device or Feminine Domination

High Heels: Torture Device or Feminine Domination

Are high heels a device to subconsciously and physically torture women or is the height that it gives women a symbol of feminine domination?

As a woman who has probably suffered the same pain of high heels as billions of other women across the world have, I recently started to really ponder this question.

Last night I went out with a few of my girlfriends to a big social event that unfortunately made us stand up with our heels for a majority of the time. Ladies, you know the feeling…cramped toes, pressure on your heels and ankles, and the balancing act of walking. It’s almost unbearable.

But, I did notice that as an attractive tall man came to talk to me, the heels gave me confidence. It made my back a little straighter and made my behind look a little perkier. This man was a model in this event so I must admit…it was fun to pretend I was as tall as my heels were helping me to look like.

Then earlier, I watched the TV show Suits, and saw that all of the strong female characters in the show displayed so much finesse and power in stilettos, especially the fictional law firm’s managing director Jessica Pearson.

Her heels looked like small five inch sticks on the small screen. Her shoes looked so uncomfortable to teeter on, but she certainly looked poised, confident, and powerful in them.

Where did high heels come from and why is it such a big part of women’s fashion in today’s world?


The Roots of High Heels

According to The Why Factor show on BBC, high heels originated in Persia when shoes with heels were worn by men so they could have better horse riding skills. The heels were specifically designed to keep their position more secure on stirrups when shooting arrows in battle.

In the 17th century, men started wearing stacked high heels as a status symbol of wealth and power. The best example was King Louis XIV and his expensive red soles. He was only five feet and four inches tall, so wearing heels gave him a little push up on the throne, so to speak.

Vintage Heels of Henry II and Louis XIV
Vintage Heels of Henry II and Louis XIV

Then lower classes picked up on the trend, so the aristocracy raised their heels higher and higher. This established the fact that royalty didn’t need to be comfortable in their shoes since they rarely walked anywhere.

When the Age of Enlightenment came, men’s attire became more sensible, while women then picked up the heel-wearing habit in order to be more masculine like men until it became an almost all-female fashion statement. By 1740, men stopped wearing heels for the most part except for a few groups such as cowboys.

The stiletto, one of the most unbearable, yet desirable of heels, first came out in Europe in the 1940s with Andre Perugia as one of the first documented designers.


High Heels in Today’s World

Now it seems like it is a requirement to wear heels to look good in regular city life. The likes of Carrie Bradshaw on the hit TV show/book/movie  Sex and the City made sure of that. It is all over mainstream culture that high heels are a staple in every modern woman’s wardrobe.

It is almost a fashion sin to wear flats with a power suit or a cocktail dress. And besides, if you are a woman who is at all concerned with her looks, you might not want to look stumpy in flats in any nice outfit you wear.

High heels are not only uncomfortable, but they are bad for your posture and knees, and can create side effects such as hammertoes, ankle injuries, bunions, and many other injuries. The following graph shows these problems visually.


The True Effect of High Heels


But as stated earlier, in the name of beauty, high heels make you look taller with longer legs, more feminine, and more dominating or powerful in work-related circumstances. They also come in a variety of colors, designs, and heel sizes.

Many Shoes

My personal opinion is for women to find the balance of dressing in the right shoes for each occasion. Do not wear heels to the gym, but put on a pair of heels for a night out. Wedges are currently fashionable so they are a great alternative to stilettos.

Be careful though, they can be heavy and can cause your ankles to hurt more from the added weight. Look for the light ones such as rubber wedges that give you height and add a spring to your step.

Now, I want to ask you, dear reader, do you think high heels are a) torture device, b) a symbol of female domination, or c) both?



Written by: Chelo Aestrid


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