Walk A Mile (Or Kilometre) In These Shoes

I’ve watched What Not To Wear off and on for a while and noticed a trend of the experts telling women of all statures (but predominantly shorter women) to 1) wear high heels and 2) wear high heels with an extremely pointed toe (you know, the kind that make your feet look like skis).

The heels, obviously, will give you a few inches so you can look taller. The skis are, apparently, magical in terms of extending the “line of your leg”, once again to make you appear taller.

1) Why is taller better?

2) Why must we damage our feet, calves and backs (extensive wear of heels will do this) to appear this way?

3) WHY are short men not told to wear higher heeled shoes and skis on their feet to make them look taller?

I’m not saying I never wear heels. I’ve got a sandal with a modest 2″ heel on at the moment, actually, but I really don’t like going higher than that. I’m also not saying I never complain about being on the shorter side – it can be an impracticality when reaching for things on a high shelf at the market, for example. There are occasions in which it would be beneficial to be just a tad taller, but just because I am not does not mean I am less of a person. (In the non-literal sense, I mean. Heh.)

Long post short (too late!) I just  have to wonder why we don’t see a whole bunch of short men walking around with uber pointy-toed shoes on, or why they’re not told to do so by experts.  Every guy under 5’7″ (random number designated by author)  should really be wearing  pointy platforms to disguise the fact he’s teeny-tiny, don’t you think?  

While we’re at it, they should also wear control-top pantyhose.


  1. Mecha says

    1) Ask society. Likely it’s a positive (and masculine, ‘coz men are taller) quality. It’s certainly reinforced by short being an insult, and the concept of inferiority complexes based on height (height = strength = value. Napoleon complex, anyone?)

    2) Because nobody’s invented a better way of making someone look taller? ^_^; (I bet they’d make a mint if they could reproduce most of the effects wihtout killing your legs…) Again, societal standards. If you’re asking ‘why do people do stupid things to conform to societla standards’… it sorta answers itself. If you’re asking ‘why would a society value things that made people have to compensate in stupid ways’… also well. Most societies I can think of have at least one stupid ritual that people go through to belong. It also appeals to sexual desires: Some men/women like legs, so emphasize them and you’re a leg up, as it were (how many suggestions on that show also play off of sexual cues?) And if they don’t, it’s not like they’re going to judge you for weaing heels. Usually.

    3) Because there’s no (positive) societal standard for it, and that’s the kind of thing these shows are trying to go for. Men in heels are drag queens. Men in platforms, well, maybe they’re just weird carnies. And why don’t they pick it up? No need, generally (you’ve still got a male advantage), and too much socialization trouble (are you really going to market high heeled shoes to men with the implicit assumption that ‘make yourself look taller, but not like a woman!’) It is similar to, although not directly, to the concept of the ‘male bra’. Could a large man use support? Probably. Would he be treated like more of a freak for it? Yep. Sub ‘short’ for ‘large’ and ‘heels for height’ for ‘support’? Same thing.

    I get te feeling there’s a bit of sarcasm in this post, but I can play the straight man for once. ^_~ It’s all social to me (and society means patriarchy in the large sense, but.) I’d be lying if I didn’t think that women believed it gave them a percieved edge in interactions with people (especially men) and so they would do it, and so it was done. If all men disappeared tomorrow, would no woman wear heels? I seriously doubt it, yanno?


  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    But so many men really prefer petite women; how can anybody conclude everyone needs to try to look taller?

    The “skis” look stupid on anybody, but on short women (I am one) they look so Wicked Witch I just expect her to start barking at me like an enraged poodle. It may also be that I know how painful and damaging those pointy toes are, so I automatically assess her as an idiot for wearing them. Fair or not, I do.

  3. Mecha says

    I would guess confidence and poise. Especially in a ‘makeover’ show… it’d be more important to go with ‘positive businesslike good looking’ then ‘petite submissive good looking’, and heels aren’t (in my mind) a submissive thing. If anything, they live in the strange realm of ‘assertive yet fanservice to men’. One step forward, one step back. Maybe, even, at the worst, it’s just ‘height’s an issue, you don’t want to be Napolean, so get some heels on.’

    My proficiency in womens’ shoes is lacking (I don’t know what exactly you mean by the skis type, exactly) but I’ve never thought of heels as comfortable or normal. Then again, Computer Science mindset: 95% of the women I know have many tomboyish qualities. (I can’t think of a woman I know who wears heels.) And maybe it’s not fair, but it’s not much less fair than saying, ‘Starving yourself or throwing up to be thin is bad’. I don’t mean to demean eating disorders there, comparing them to something so casual as shoes, but…hurting yourself in the long term to look good in the short term… is that really smart? Does one really have to apologize for thinking it’s stupid?


  4. baskerville says

    Because if you’re a guy, you’re just short. You could wear platforms or lifts, but then you’re a short guy trying to compensate, which is somehow worse.

    One could make the argument that at least girls have the option of wearing taller shoes. For a short guy, I think the best one can do (and not look pathetic or like a drag queen) is the running show (They’re thicker in the heel. In fact, I’ve been told it’s not good to wear running shoes all the time, for the same reasons they discourage heels.) or maybe a thick-soled boot.

    Guys have to be sneakier about it.

  5. scarlett says

    Tom Cruise is what, five-four or something like that? It’s rare enough to find a woman that short who’s made it big in the entertainment industry, let alone a woman who is that far below the average (if five-ten is the men’s average and five-six is the women’s, then the female equival of Tom Cruise would be five-even)
    I think you can still be respectable and manly being short, if you have the right ‘manly’ characteristics, but if you’re a short woman, then you’re just a midget.
    I have girlfriend who’s five-eleven and still wears heels so she towers over most guys. I have no idea why she bothers, apart from the fact it’s actually quite hard to buy nice going out shoes which DON’T have heels (believe me, I’ve tried). I myself wear heels which are 1-3 inches most of the time I goout, where its not practical to wear sneakers of flat, practical sandals.
    Which brings me to another gripe. It is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to find pretty shoes (the kind you could wear out dancing) with flat heels. If they’re pretty, they have heels, if they’re flat, they’re practical, like the kind nurses and waitstaff wear. A few months ago I got a beautiful dark brown cocktail dress. I was resigned to the fact I was going to have to go with heels, but the only shoes I could find that matched, after searching high and low, were four” stilletoes.
    I geuss it goes back to socialisation and supply and demand; women demand to look taller, so there’s no dmand for flat pretty shoes so its impossible to find themn. I wonder if that’s part of the reason my five-eleven friend wears heels all the time.

  6. says

    Tom Cruise is 5’7, according to the IMDB. I really tend to see the height thing as the other way around. On average, women look for a man 10% taller than them, according to some survey I’ve read. I don’t know that I’ve personally known a guy who was dating a girl taller than him, although my experience is limited. It’s a sitcom thing for a short guy to go out with a tall girl, and it was actually newsworthy in a filler column sense when a guy married a girl a foot taller than him.

  7. scarlett says

    I used to date a guy (he was Asian, and they are, on average, on the short side) who was the tiniest bit shorter then me. In all fairness, guys are, on average, taller, so the law of averages puts a woman taller then a man in the minority.

  8. Beta Candy says

    Yeah, but those “options” are a curse. Can I trade the option for high heel height in on an option to become president with no more shit than my equivalent in male form would have to go through? Nope, didn’t think so. 😉

    The fashion world is always giving women “options” to feel “entitled” to. By worrying us to death about height, weight, breast size, they’re distracting us from the glass ceiling, the 78% wages we get compared to men doing the same work, etc.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  9. Firebird says

    I don’t think of heels as being submissive either, but according the synopsis of one study I read (on the PsyChi website – can’t include the link for spam software reasons), “the gaits of women wearing high heels were stiffer and included less hip sway and arm swing. More importantly, women in heels were perceived as more submissive than when barefoot, although they were also judged as less sexy.”

    This was ingeniously done using a special type of photography where the footage showed up as moving dots on a dark background – so it wasn’t about the appearance of the women.

    On the other hand, the conversations I’ve overheard among guys seem to indicate that very high heels are considered both more sexy and more dominant, simultaneously. Women who wear them are called “man-eaters” oftentimes.

  10. Firebird says

    Why is it that trying to compensate in a guy is funny at best (I’m thinking of Shrek and the recurring joke about Lord Farquad’s tower) and despicable or dangerous at worst (getting beaten up or killed, anyone?), while compensating is business as usual for women? If we have a “problem”, something is funny or wrong if we don’t cover it up, dress it up, or just change it. Makeup, high heels, hose, laser hair removal…

    And I don’t think the good answer is for men to start worrying about these things, which is way the trend appears to be going, what with face washes and laser hair removal, etc., being marketed intensively to guys.

    ~Firebird, who usually refuses to wear makeup but can’t find dress shoes less than 3″ to wear to work

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    I would guess confidence and poise. Especially in a ‘makeover’ show… it’d be more important to go with ‘positive businesslike good looking’ then ‘petite submissive good looking’, and heels aren’t (in my mind) a submissive thing.

    Am I misreading you, or are you saying that tallness=”confidence and poise” and shortness=”submissive”? And if so, do you ever find your assumption flipping the instant the person opens her mouth?

    In other words, I really think it’s all personality. I’m not quite 5′ 2″, and since I was in grade school, people have been trying to make me the leader every time I walk into a room. Conversely, I have dozens of tall girlfriends who are deeply insecure and couldn’t be mistaken for dominant in 17 inch heels carrying bullwhips.

  12. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m hoping that guys getting hung up on their looks will bring the whole thing to a head, and soon we’ll all just say “Screw this” and go outside with all our zits in broad daylight. 😀

    And you and Scarlett are right about the trouble finding shoes that look good for office jobs without enormous heels. I work upstairs in a two floor office suite, and go up and down the stairs as many as 20 times a day. No way in hell am I wearing spindly high heels, tripping on the stairs, and killing myself so men at the funeral can say, “If only she hadn’t been so vain and insisted on wearing those deadly shoes.” Because that’s how it works, you know: give a woman no practical options, so you can blame her for making “bad choices”.

  13. scarlett says

    I wear a lot of wedge or chunky heels, I own one pair of stilletoes, and in all fairness, they were bought to go with a cocktail dress. The thing with wedge heels is that once you get used to the height, it’s not too bad, because it’s still a flat surface, albiet on a wedge platform. But in years of looking, I’ve found ONE pair of flat shoes which were nice enough to wear to the office, or to dinner, or drinks etc.

  14. Mecha says

    I don’t know that I have a perception about tall or short, except through society, maybe. I don’t have any mental examples of someone, in person, that caused me to link tall -> confident or short -> submissive, at least that I can think of at the moment.

    However, I do think that tallness causes the mental perception of confidence, and shortness causes the mental perception of submissive, in our society. Our mental images of ‘tall people’ tend to confidence, strength, will (Amazons, any ‘strong man’, basketball players, whatever.) Our mental images of short people tend to be submissive (or overcompensating). Demure women, midget servants, angry short people, etc. Someone ‘stands tall’ when exhibiting confidence. People ‘look up’ to people that are admired. Women gaze upward at beautiful movie heros with big soft eyes. And hence, in our society, height becomes something that when you give it to someone, they may _be_ more confident. Or at least look it. This may figure into on why Hollywood actors do not publicize their height: The ‘impression’ of height in a movie can be given, but not so much when you know the guy’s 5’4″.

    (Insert discussion about ‘Heaven = good, earth = base and immoral, under-earth = evil’ here, as I don’t really have the sources for it, but it’s another long term Western societal cue.)

    And whether they can keep it when they open their mouth is another question. 😉 Personality, hopefully, would play a large part of it, and is obviously the correct way of determining confidence and leadership and so on. A domme is a domme anywhere, and someone with confidence has confidence. But giving someone something that society percieves a certain way allows them to percieve themselves that way, as both approval and social reality, perhaps for a few moments. And I think that’s what the concept is playing off of.


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