The Japanese people that I have encountered living in the Kansai area have some of the worst fashion that I have had the privilege of witnessing, the pinnacle of which is the insulting array of viciously hideous high heels. While not unique to Japan, the plethora that they appear here on women’s feet reminded me of my disgust for them, my contempt for them. Indeed there are many other things more worthy of such vehement emotions, but I struggle, perhaps because I am bent towards this notion, to find anything as ugly on so many layers and with, unfortunately, such an ingrained cultural mainstay of beauty as high heels. A mainstay that should be challenged and erased.
Ugly being the key word here. It is unfortunate that so few understand fashion, or at least that we have let our sense of what constitutes what is fashionable and beautiful for women to be distorted into the unnatural shape of a foot within one of these oppressive shoes. That is what they are—oppression, for when has it been that the human foot’s anatomy existed as it does when bound to one of these shoes? Indeed, the current trend within high heels trends to higher heels which reminisce Chinese foot binding in their shortening of the foot horizontally to create what appears to be more of a hoof or trotter than a foot, which are themselves great foot shapes for quadrupeds, but I doubt for bipeds such as humans. At least not without a change in posture, though a change that does more harm to the wearer than it enhances their attractiveness, their power, their glam, their whatever.
There are of course those who would disagree, and who search for reasons behind this masochistic oppressive foot wear, such as in this article, this post, or this study. I suppose what disturbs me here is that so few seem to realize the levels of oppression working within these shoes, and instead find ways to defend their continued production through such studies as the one linked above, or exclamations of: “I wear what I want to wear, and I wear high heels because I feel good when I wear something nice. They make me feel sexy, and that is for me.” Yet such a view of these shoes seems to perpetuate a false ideal of femininity and female beauty. Aligning oneself to a group that advocates equality doesn’t erase the hypocrisy of dressing in a way to look good and feel sexy that parallels an image created by men for the benefit of them. An image of women as an object for men. There is nothing beautiful in hammertoes or bunions, awkward posture, or stunted steps. There is nothing empowering about throwing off the bodies center of balance, or having a lose of mobility due to ill designed shoes.
It is unfortunate that it seems a woman cannot feel good or attractive or sexy unless she dresses as a Gucci ad or Vogue cover, as though there exist no other forms of being well dressed. Indeed, some of the terms I have used align with the words good or bad, and are all subjective concepts, and all would argue that they are so, yet how they are represented in reality too often fall within a narrow spectrum, which effectively robs such terms of any subjectivity. As such, and perhaps I am being too contrived or pertinacious, there is little one can say about high heels that can affect a change in my views on high heels as destructive shoe wear.
For as one of the most practical of products, shoe design should be fully utilitarian; centered around comfort, warmth, coolness, protection, support, breath-ability, durability, ease of use, etc. The simplest shape that succeeds, within the various parameters set by specific uses, at realizing the above list should be the only goal within shoe design. Their beauty comes from their practicality. Any superfluous materials, construction techniques, or designs used merely distract from their primary use: the support and protection of our feet.
The specific purpose of high heels is to bind women into an ideal of what they ought look like as an attractive object. I may be out of date with my interpretation, but even if I am, high heels are an insult to shoe design.