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Heel-less heels, prickly wedges and cleated sole loafers
Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Heel-less heels, prickly wedges and cleated sole loafers: Why the shops are full of ugly, unwearable women's shoes - and why Emma Watson is welcome to them
This isn’t quite what we expected from the always fashionable, yet usually relatively low-maintenance, Emma Watson.
Her appearance at Dior’s haute couture show last week wearing a pair of pointed, awkward, heel-less platforms by the brand was a departure from her usual down-to-earth style — and an unwelcome escalation in the trend for utterly unwearable women’s shoes.
Surely, in 2014, we should have escaped this tyranny? But no, thanks to diktats from those at the top of the fashion tree, it seems that in order to be considered fashionable we must lumber ourselves with items of clothing that prevent us from achieving the most basic day-to-day tasks — walking in a straight line, for example. We’ve barely moved on from the days of the Victorians’ 18in corsets.
The heel-less shoe, a symptom of this trend, became a high-fashion favourite after Victoria Beckham was photographed in thigh-high, gravity-defying, heel-less boots by Antonio Berardi in 2009.
Since then Nina Ricci has created heel-less ankle boots and Lady Gaga has appeared in a pair of 10in hoof-like platforms by young Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana. Perhaps inevitably, Gaga succumbed to a Naomi Campbell-worthy fall in front of the world’s press.
And this is the problem. If even Gaga can’t wear them safely, what hope is there for the rest of us?
But practicality does not feature in the minds of designers, whose only goal appears to be to make women look foolish. While any sane industry would have allowed this latest ‘advance’ to be quietly consigned to the great wardrobe in the sky, the fashion cognoscenti have let it flourish, alongside other, equally ridiculous designs.
Parisian ‘haute fetish’ brand Phylea is a case in point, regularly appearing in all the most cutting-edge magazines, exhorting style-lovers to adopt PVC, spikes and shoes that hold feet at angles so improbable even ballerinas ‘en pointe’ would struggle.
And these designs don’t stay on the catwalk and the pages of glossy magazines. The High Street uses them as inspiration, resulting in shops full of ugly shoes that do nothing for the wearer.
Because not only are shoes like this outrageously uncomfortable, they are also—(unlike, say, an impractical but lovely Manolo Blahnik heel) deeply unflattering on any but the most coltish of legs.
You’d expect a pair of soaring heels to lengthen the leg, but the straps or heavy uppers required to hold bulky soles on to moving feet actually make the leg look shorter. The deep concave curve from heel to sole echoes and enhances a pair of extravagant hips, and proportionally the shoes look wrong on stumpy legs.
Most importantly, the clunky shuffle required to actually walk in these things attracts nothing but ridicule. It’s a long way from the sexy, confident strut endowed by a good pair of stilettos.
But then one of the great misconceptions of fashion is that it is about making women more beautiful. In fact, for those at the cutting edge it consists of the pursuit of looks so heinously ugly, they bring into sharp relief the beauty of the wearer.
Witness the recent revival of pool slides and hiking sandals, for example. While applauded by critics as daring and striking, in real life they make women look like they’ve escaped from a secure unit.
Despite that, the shops are full of them, leaving women, once more, to choose between opting out of fashion entirely, or buying into it — and looking foolish. Coco Chanel once said: ‘Fashion has become a joke. The designers have forgotten that there are women inside the dresses. Most women dress for men and want to be admired. But they must also be able to move, to get into a car?.?.?.’
She must be turning in her grave.
At just 5ft 4in I’ve always been a fan of heels, but these 6in, ‘no-heel’ platform shoes from fashion-forward brand Odeon are unlike anything I have ever tried.
At £34.99 they are more affordable than Emma Watson’s £600 Diors, but equally intimidating.
Sitting down for safety, I ease my foot into one shoe and find that, due to the angle, I have to bend my foot downwards into almost a straight line to stand a chance of putting them on.
Standing up is easier than expected. The heavy platforms at the front compensate for the lack of heel, all my weight is pushed on to the balls of my feet and I tip, quite easily, into an upright position. Leaning slightly forward I feel balanced, if somewhat precariously, on my tiptoes.
But walking proves a problem. The smallest movement forward makes me feel as if I am about to topple forwards, and taking actual steps feels impossible. I resort to a kind of shuffle.
It works over small distances, but as soon as I leave the safe confines of the office, I feel so unsteady I have to walk with arms outstretched, like a child pretending to be an aeroplane.
Progress is painfully slow, and in the busy lunchtime streets of Kensington in London I find a queue has formed behind me on the pavement. People tut impatiently as I hinder their progress, and I’m gripped by the fear that someone will push past and I’ll collapse like a heavy oak tree in a hurricane.
There’s a distinct lack of admiring glances in my direction. Office workers look on in bemusement and I catch a couple of glamorously dressed women sniggering behind their cappuccinos.
Worse is yet to come as I attempt to negotiate cobbles — not wise. I rock back and forth, lose my balance and try to grab a passer-by for support. He’s not amused. Neither am I. They may be the height of fashion, but they’re painful, ugly and impractical. Emma Watson is welcome to them.
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