High heels evolution
19 March, 2018, 12:00 am
IT is true. Those super high heels that supermodels wear to stride so confidently down the fashion runways of the world do let them down occasionally.
An effort to get an online peek into the life of a fashion model exposed some surprising ‘ouch’ moments suffered by some of the catwalk’s coolest women.
What is really cool about them is the way they get back on their feet – or back on to their humungous foot platforms – and smilingly continue to strut, scraped knees and twisted ankles and all.
‘America’s Funniest Videos’ television show has done its best to desensitise us to people falling over, off skateboards and diving boards, into fences and wedding cakes and on top of cats and old ladies. But as everyone really knows, falling down can really hurt.
“Even the famous and best of models, Naomi Campbell, had what is now known as ‘the biggest fall of all’ when she made an epic stumble whilst wearing Vivienne Westwood’s notoriously high platform heels during her show at the 1993 Paris Fashion Week.
The fashion world and media was abuzz with this fall!
It comes as no surprise to read that it was probably men who invented the high heel. In any case it was apparently for men. Some historians attribute the high heel’s origins to 15th century male equestrian footwear from Persia.
The style was designed to help men balance while shooting a bow from the back of a horse, and was not intended for everyday wear.
Others suggest it evolved from chopines, an early 16th century platform that was popular with Venetian women (perhaps to keep them out of the unhygienic street sludge and general dampness of the canal city).
The height and shape of the shoe required wearers to be accompanied by someone to help them balance.
Anyway the first documented evidence of a woman wearing similar styles to the heeled footwear of today is considered to be the fancy footwear of Queen Elizabeth I in 1595.
Something our own dear Queen may have cursed her for after standing for hours at official royal functions.
Although she leaves it to her granddaughters/in laws to wear the fashion footwear.
What is perhaps surprising that over the centuries women and some men (think cowboy boots) have continued to wear high, and higher, heels.
Various polls indicate that most do it for fashion and style, and others also because they believe it makes them look more attractive. In Fiji they wear them to special events and these days many feel the moderately high heeled pump is obligatory for office work.
And sometimes they trip. As a population, Fiji women are graceful and seem rarely to fall over in public. But given the state of many of our roads and footpaths, turned ankles and bruised knees are not entirely unknown. Stepping out briskly in stilettoes on a Suva street is asking for it, you may say.
Fashion models also face their challenges. They walk in the particular ‘model’ stride of the season, and they walk fast.
This is to show off the clothing to best advantage, especially the floating styles with ruffles, dipping hemlines and flowing trains which sometimes pose a hazard to those coming behind as well as the wearer.
Sometimes the walkways are slick or slanted making it little wonder there are occasional slips by even the most experienced models.
It seems photographers are on the ready to record any undignified moment, tumble or wardrobe malfunction which are really about as funny as stepping barefoot on a cockroach.
While the models climb bravely back on track, they could be left limping. Reported potential problems from high heels stemming mainly from the narrow toebox and inhumane heel height, include deformities of the foot such as bunions and hammer toes from squeezing the toes into too small a space.
There could also be pinched nerves on the ball of the foot called neuroma, also corns or calluses from rubbing. Not to mention blisters from teeny bit too tight footwear.
These are problems of prolonged wear, not just runway appearances, and take no account of genetic factors.
If your granny had toes that looked like a bunch of deformed bananas and bunions the size of golf balls by the time she was 40, chances are the defects could continue down the generations.
More likely, according to medics, are ankle sprains from having the foot in an unstable position and so rolling or twisting the ankle. Unsurprisingly, the risk for injury increases with the height of the heel.
This year’s fashion shoe trends seem rather less hazardous. There is something called ‘kitten heels’ which appear to be quite low but slim and delicate. Slingbacks and slipons, practical in a country where we are frequently taking off our shoes to go inside seem also to be featuring, some in pretty pastels and florals.
Not for Fiji type climates are sandal styles with fur and feather trimming that seems set to trail in dust and mud.
The chaps in khaki will be in fashion with combat boots, but perhaps forget the PVC detailing. Clumpy sneakers don’t look as comfortable as the more conventional ones although the refurbished Crocs could be interesting.
An unexpected twist in footwear is the idea of wearing brightly patterned socks with sandals.
To think we used to laugh at the English gentlemen who covered their toes as fashion tragics, although it does keep mosquitoes at bay.
Generally speaking, the styles look as if they could carry a model quite safely and even comfortably along the catwalk.
According to a small American survey, more than 70 per cent of women in the poll said their high heeled shoes hurt their feet. Some people are of the opinion that shoes of all sorts hurt the feet and stick firmly with the Fiji fashion au naturel.
What must be an overwhelming majority of Fiji women wear flat or wedge heeled sandals, street tough to beaded fancy; or the ubiquitous flipflops — serviceable rubber, fancy style or icon brand name.
And of course we largely go barefooted, especially in the house, and also sometimes on the fashion walkway. Many of the outfits by Fiji designers suit our preferred sandalled or barefoot style.
A chance to see what’s going on with feet this season will be at the 2018 Fiji Fashion Week, 25-26 May at the FMF Gymnasium, Suva.
* The writer is a special contributor to Fiji Fashion Week (FJFW). Views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper.