Torturous Heels Are Back—But Why?

Models falling, kicking off their heels, and visibly reaching out for help while on the verge of tears are in all places right away, and all of it has to do with the runway’s newest obsession: precarious heels. The largest offender? Arguably Valentino, where multiple models fell hard on the spring 2023 runway, and nevertheless during high fashion, when longtime supermodel Kristen McMenamy was visibly distraught as she took a tumble after which struggled to walk. She later threw the shoes across the catwalk as she marched on, her head held high.

These heels aren’t just exceptionally high, they’re flat-out dangerous; and suddenly, they’re as ubiquitous on the runways as sneakers are on the road. Sky-high heels have had their place in fashion for a long time, but after season upon season of designers embracing ballet flats and kitten heels, lots of the key houses have gone all out in favor of alarmingly perilous shoes. Versace’s spring 2021 collection introduced the Medusa Aevitas platform pumps that will have began all of it. Fendi’s spring 2023 chunky platforms had models taking them off and carrying them on the runway, and Balmain’s models teetered in massive, rock-like shoes. At Vivienne Westwood, a model also fell while wearing sky-high platforms.

Kristen McMenamy at Valentino runway.

But why now? Fashion is nothing if not cyclical, and the 2010s are coming back in full force with labels like Celine and Saint Laurent capitalizing on certain aesthetics of the time period, like indie sleaze. Loads of death-defying heels also defined the aughts. Alexander McQueen’s alien-like shoes in his spring 2010 collection were otherworldly with their extreme height, dome-like shape, and teeny-tiny heel, while Prada spring 2009 was known for its slippery, dangerously high heels with a teeteringly tall shape that caused many models to stumble. Off the runway, the influence of Jeffrey Campbell’s Litas and Isabel Marant’s wedge sneakers were legendary in the course of the same era. After all, the early 2000s still serves as a pivotal reference point in fashion right away, and the look of Bratz Dolls platforms and vintage Vivienne Westwood heels is clearly influential.

Likewise, fashion historians also think the brand new wave of tortuous heels has all the pieces to do with the post-pandemic have to dress up, which we’ve seen throughout history following tumultuous times that resulted in casual dressing. “After two years in pajamas, the concept is that it’s essential dress like you’re going to the Oscars,” says the historian Einav Rabinovitch-Fox. “This shouldn’t be a surprising move from the style industry, as they should make profits, but we’ve seen it prior to now as well. Each time there may be a period of moving towards comfort and functionality, there may be also a counter response that brings back the impractical. Each the Nineteen Twenties and post-WWII had periods like that.”

model naomi campbell and fashion designer vivienne westwood attend the designer of the year awards at the natural history museum during london fashion week, 19th october 1993 photo by dave benettgetty images

Model Naomi Campbell, wearing the Super Elevated Gillie heels, and Vivienne Westwood.

Dave Benett//Getty Images

Perhaps the concept of shoes meant for showing off fairly than walking also plays into our collective increased screen time and obsession with virality online. Right away, fashion shows are all about buzzy moments, with brands attempting to upstage one another and fighting for probably the most views on social media, like what we witnessed with Coperni’s spray-on dress. Naomi Campbell cheerfully falling with fun at a Vivienne Westwood show in 1993 while wearing the label’s Super Elevated Gillie towering heels has change into its own meme-worthy moment. The clip lives on, but really, it’s no wonder she lost her balance, because the shoes themselves were 12 inches high with a four-inch front platform. She later revealed that other designers asked if she could fall on their runways, too.

Are 2023’s supertall heels just one other try and grab attention? When the shoes—and the models falling—eclipse the clothing, it’s a straightforward strategy to change into memorable. But let’s be honest: it’s degrading and dehumanizing to have women falling down, possibly getting injured, one after the opposite. Unfortunately, that’s also what gets a whole lot of views online. People like to be entertained on the sake of others.

It’s also price noting that heels and other painful footwear weren’t at all times defined by gender, aside from the incontrovertible fact that probably the most tortuous features have mainly been applied to women and young girls. Think: foot binding in Eastern cultures in addition to heels in Western cultures throughout the Renaissance period. “Heels were worn by each sexes, however the more extreme sky-high heels were often worn by women,” says Rabinovitch-Fox, who cites Sixteenth-century chopines worn by Venice courtesans, which were as high as 20 inches. “Within the East, platform shoes called Geta were worn by geishas in Japan. They were much like the normal getas (an earlier version of the flip-flop), but geishas wore it with a platform. There’s a connection that each geishas and courtesans wore similar shoes, as these shoes weren’t meant for walking, but to attract attention.” Also something to take into consideration: most of those extreme heels are coming out of fashion houses with male creative directors (even Westwood has been co-led by her partner Andreas Kronthaler because the ’90s), though fashion inherently has less female-led fashion houses anyway.

Sure, the proper pair of extremely high heels could make you’re feeling incredibly confident and transform any look. However it’s essential to attract a distinction between shoes that look high and are wearable versus those who skilled models with a long time of experience can’t walk in, even for lower than a number of minutes. “High heels on the whole have been associated each with oppression and with feminist empowerment throughout history,” adds Rabinovitch-Fox, who notes that they similarly align with today’s other popular trends that fall into each categories of interpretation: the naked dress, micro minis, underwear as outerwear.

So, are towering heels an emblem of empowerment or a beacon of dressing for the male gaze? One could spend a lifetime arguing either side. But unfortunately, in some ways, fashion is moving at a breakneck speed going backward. The dearth of body diversity embraced by brands on the spring 2023—and now fall/winter 2023—runways speaks volumes. Heels which can be barely wearable? It puts the ladies wearing them within the position of inanimate dolls—doomed to fail and set as much as be torn apart online if she will be able to’t perform, as seen with among the comments on McMenamy’s experience on the Valentino show.

In 2023, unwalkable footwear feels inherently stilted and in stark opposition to what’s being worn in real life. Let’s take it right down to ground level, we could?

Headshot of Kristen Bateman

Contributing Editor

Kristen Bateman is a contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Her first fashion article was published in Vogue Italia during her junior 12 months of highschool. Since then, she has interned and contributed to WWD, Glamour, Lucky, i-D, Marie Claire and more. She created and writes the #ChicEats column and covers fashion and culture for Bazaar. When not writing, she follows the most recent runway collections, dyes her hair to match her mood, and practices her Italian in hopes of scoring 90% off Prada on the Tuscan outlets. She loves vintage shopping, dessert and cats.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Elgin Shopping Mall
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart