Rule: It’s really not necessary to wear skyscraper heels during the day

In Famous people, High heels, Shoes on April 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm



How glamorous does one person really need to be? Isn’t Elle McPherson fabulous enough just being alive and walking around on those legs with that hair and that smile, those lovely boys and that international business? These days, though, it seems that’s not enough.

Not only do you have to be the yummiest of mummies, and delightfully devoted, taking your kids to school yourself – you have to do it in towering high heels. Shoes with heels so wickedly spikey high the designer himself called them after the devil.

Let me be clear, I am not criticising Ms MacPherson here. She looks amazing. She’s not just wearing those jeans, she’s working them, and there’s no doubt the Christian Louboutin ‘Lucifer’ shoes propel the outfit from every day comfy to high-octane glamour. But really… is this now the bench mark for working mothers’ daywear?

What makes it hard to take is that later the same day, Elle was photographed, by some nasty intrusive paparazzo, sitting in the hairdresser’s, joyfully taking the Lucifer shoes off and rubbing her aching tootsies.

It’s all part of the conspiracy of the high heel. A living lie of ambitious women tottering around in towering heels for the most mundane of occasions and playacting an air of insouciant comfort.

‘These old things? Oh I just knock about in them…They’re like slippers to me. I can’t wear flats.’

I’ve lost count of the number of Anna Wintour wannabes who proclaim they only ever wear Manolos. One that particularly sticks in the mind was a New York plastic surgeon, who wears them while she operates. I don’t know about you, but I would really rather have my surgeon concentrating on her scalpel, than her stilettos.

Victoria Beckham is another power mum always seen in punishing heels, despite the fact that wearing them has gnarled her poor feet to such an extent, she might have to have bunion surgery.

Back in 2007 she told a journalist from London’s Daily Mail, ‘I always wear stilettos but they have given me awful feet. I hate my feet, they are the most disgusting thing about me. Part of the reason I wear such amazing shoes is to take the eye away from my horrid feet and on to the stunning shoes.’

Yet four years later, despite knowing the heels have ruined her feet, she’s still trooping around in them. Of course, that’s her look out, but what bugs me about the Killer Heel Conspiracy is the impact on young women, of celebrity role models perpetuating this lie that high heels are a good idea for every day life.

I’m not against heels per se – they’re fun and yes, they do lengthen the leg and make you look taller and slimmer – but I’m fiercely against the idea that they are a casual shoe.

Wearing them every day has become a kind of competitive prestige behaviour. As though you’re not a true wonder woman if you can’t dance backwards in high heels – whilst also being a perfect mother, supportive partner and a peer-revered internationally successful businesswoman. If you can’t hack the heels you’re not in the club.

In this way the Killer Heel Conspiracy damages not only the feet of those who fall for it – but the self esteem of those don’t. Let’s not give it further credence.

  1. Oh, brava to you for writing this style note. I haven’t been able to wear heels since a problem with my hip (18 months now), but when I did wear them, i wore them only on special occasions.
    As I have frequently told (and bored) chums, “your feet are your tires!”
    Indeed. Isn’t if fortunate there are so many truly wonderful flats and low-heeled shoes that look fabuous and are comfortable. Have you ever checked out Cydwgds? Young designer out of California. He’s on the web. Fantastic shoes.
    I have a pair of handmade blue suede sneakers with sequins. They were made in Italy and do not look like horrible trainers, but are comfortable and they BREATHE! Happy feet make for happy times, don’t you think?

  2. Is the NY cosmetic surgeon Lisa Airan…she is gorgeous…

  3. Totally agree – thank god for ballet flats! Ps. Love the little girl’s outfit (background of first Elle shot) and dad not so subtle about checking E out! Xxx

  4. Bring back the Birkies I say – although I don’t think they’ve ever been out of fashion. I have a wardrobe of them and particularly love the Dorian style clog. I can walk forever in them. Then it’s a treat to put heels on, and I often take Bloch ballet flats in my handbag in case I have to walk far. ( I loathe trainers too.)

  5. Bravo. These shoes look great the Oscars or on the catwalk. Anywhere else? They make me cringe and wish I’d become a podiatrist. There’s money in them thar bunions.

  6. OMG I think Elle always looks stunning, yet obviously heels are not practical for mums.
    I just did a survey for to find out the favourite shoes for mums to wear when they are with their kids. The top 5 are here.
    Not a heel in sight!

  7. i actually miss wearing heels since i’ve been home with the kids. i used to wear them everyday to work but wore flats or lower heels on the weekend. wedges are the best for giving you height but being easier to walk in. they have to be nice wood wedge heels though.
    i find that high heels don’t cause me as many problems as pointy toes do, they can be so painful. a girl i worked with wore pointy toe shoes all the time. i once saw her wear sandals and her toes were revolting! it turned me off pointy toes for a long time.
    i’m always on the lookout now for lower heels (under 2 inches) as i get sick of flats and i’m really short.

  8. Bravo, I could not agree more, however there are so few really nice dressy shoes for work for young women. They either look like something my Nanna would wear or are flimsy ballet flats that offer less support than my heels (not to mention soles so thin they provide no protection against the looming winter cold). This even extends to low heels, again they are all designed for the not so discerning grandmother.

    As a dancer, I can move backwards in heels quite efficiently, I just wish I had more options so that I could be fashionable and comfortable.

  9. I don’t wear heels. I find them uncomfortable.

  10. Well, I refuse to hobble with a pained expression (which will only lead to more frown lines, wrinkles etc – hey maybe the plastic surgeons are in on the conspiracy too??). Great as they may look. And any height I’ve gained in heel with them on is cancelled out by the other (already tall) ladies also sporting their skyscrapers! So heels be damned! I shall not tire of the flat, and will wobble on a wedge. But hobble on a cobble? Newwwww!

  11. I rarely wear heels.
    Elle seems to have school run confused with runway!

  12. Heels hurt. They really, really do and I simply don’t understand why we have this giant collective silence around that fact.

  13. Elle looks fab, I really want a pair of those grey jeans but I’m sure they cost a king’s ransom. I must say it’s time she cut her hair, she’s in her late 40’s and starting to remind me of a WAG…

    Anyhoo I’m off topic. I’m recovering from knee surgery and my surgeon has banned me from wearing heels! I don’t wear them every day but I haven’t been able to wear them (without being in pain) at all this year. Hopefully soon…

    • Do we really have to cut our hair because we get older? Maggie did a post a couple of weeks ago with those fabulous older Italian women, well past their 40’s and still with fabulous flowing locks! I’m off to the hairdresser tomorrow but will be keeping my hair long, even though I’m 42!

      • I hate proscribing anything according to age – but there is long hair and long hair… I think beyond a certain length it gets creepy. Re Jerry Hall, it’s just the insistence on sticking to the screen siren style which is ageing her so much more than she deserves. She’s so gorgeous still. Imagine her with a Jessica Lange soft bob? But if you love your long hair – you damn well keep it x

      • Maggie, I remember a whole chapter in one of your books devoted to what you can / cant wear after a certain age (it was really funny) I think pigtails featured in there somewhere???

      • Yes I think I did write that – I don’t like to be proscriptive, but some thing just look w r o n g…

  14. I just love high heels. I love platform heels. I long for the day when I can purchase a pair of red soled Louboutin’s and strut about the place in them! I don’t consider myself to be a particularly attractive woman but I do feel much more attractive in heels. In flats, I just feel short. The only time I gave up heels was 8 months into pregnancy, when I just couldn’t do it anymore. I guess that even when I am feeling my frumpiest, putting on heels makes me feel fab, even if my feet hurt a bit. It’s kind of a relief to know that Elle’s feet hurt too 🙂

  15. God she looks good though. If I could walk in the darn things I’d wear them more often, but not on the school run. I think I read somewhere once, when she got busted for glamming up for the school run somewhere else, that she claimed she was on her way to work, so that’s a work get-up. Fair enough. As for the long hair, if I had hair like that and a stylist to blow dry it for me every day I’d be wearing it long till I was in the nursing home.

  16. I;ve never had the balance for high heels (even worse if there’s a drink or two involved…) Long live the wedge, I say.

  17. oh she looks so gorgeous our Aussie Elle!! But those heels, my oh my! I think she’s tall enough, get her a pair of thongs, i mean, flip flops or whatever it is you call them over in the UK!!!! xx

  18. As much as I love the look, with bunions like mine I struggle to get into ballet flats let alone killer heels and when I do wear killer heels once in a blue moon, I’m like a new born foal finding it’s legs – wobble, wobble ; )

  19. I really miss your Style Notes in the Good Weekend, was really disapointed when the column disappeared! (tell that to your editor), was very glad to see your new column in the Sun Herald Newspaper, but let’s face it, it’s just not as classy as GW. And to be frank, I bet someone in the upper echalons(sp?) told you to dumb down the column for the average paper reader or something. Or not. Maybe it’s just the *je ne sai quoi* that newsprint vs “magazine supplement” print gives off…an implicit working class vibe. Don’t be afraid to get personal Maggie! Share that wisdom and experience! Tell the higher-ups to fuck off, your GW column was brilliant. Humour, always more humour. You are one witty biatch, OK?

    • Thank you, Your Royal Highness. I agree on every point. They didn’t tell me to dumb down – it’s exactly what I’ve been doing for Essential Style for a few weeks – and still do for M magazine in Melbourne. When Essential Style ended (damn shame…) they put me into S.

      Of course, it’s not as glam as a magazine, but I am really pleased to be in a section which is so popular and so widely read – because lots of people (like yourself) didn’t find me in the other one. Meanwhile, I am doing my own thing on here, so I hope you will sign up. Your humble and obedient servant, Madame Fandango x

      • I could not believe they took you out of the gw. On occasion it was literally the only reason I bought the paper. So glad I finally found you on here.

  20. Speaking of dumbing down and absence of fav column , which I have been faithfully reading since high school ( oh , you should have SEEN my formal dress) GW has REALLY gone off… according to articles this weekend, all good surfers are men,(except one) mining coal is a great job, but women shouldn’t be involved, and its not their fault they happen to earn great money hurting the planet, oh, and in other articles, what women are up too now is inventing fake illnesses and posting them on the internet to look for sympathy.
    seriously, these were the three main features….

  21. I have never read a blog or replied to a blog until dear Maggie. I feel blessed. Having read all the books by Maggie availavble on audile (I am legally blind), thi sjust makes me happy. I tell you the bliknd bwcaise IO can
    t’t make this large enough to edit.
    I love this blog and Maggie! More books, please.
    Would that I could, it would b e nice to wear heels so high on a special day.
    K want anew Maggie book on audio. ghe US does not have fun writers who are also literate and originasl.

    • Hi Toby! I love having my US correspondent. I am supposed to be writing another novel, but the deadline is getting scary because I have NO time at the moment… It will happen xxx

  22. Absolutely loved – and laughed at – this article. So witty, amusing and entertaining. Agree with you one hundred per cent, Ms Alderson. Ballet flats all the way! – except when going out on the town, of course… 😉
    Warm regards,
    – L x

  23. I never wear heels .. I can’t see the point of marring the magic of a fabulous function with any sort of pain. But then I know I have no interest in fashion whatsoever, and even less sense of style. In fact, I can’t wait to turn 60 (sadly, more than 20 years away) and purchase a wardrobe of mu-mus and crocs. I shall forget to brush my hair, wear floppy straw hats that have been in the rain, and spend hours grubbing around in the garden. Which makes it all the more incredible that I was a devoted reader of your page in GW, and mourned its dissapearance. I love that while you’re devoted and entranced by fashion, you can still see how ridiculous and self-absorbed and manufactured it is … but despite that you can’t help but be passionate. It’s a marvellous, witty mix — glad I can still find you here!

  24. I wear heels all over the place, with child or not, if I feel like wearing them. Does me doing that somehow make other women feel bad? Am I setting a bad example for young women? That’s what I’m taking from this article, and that’s making me feel a bit depressed now.

    It seems none of us can ever win!

  25. Oh MuMu MaMa, your comment begged a reply. As one who has recently just turned sixty (and I never thought this would happen to ME. I mean, really, me? Sixty?
    Well, my dear, I’ve always been interested in fashion and style. One thing I never wanted to be was one of those women who just give up. I live in the states and too many my age just begin to wear baggy pastel running suits or something with elastic and WHITE sneakers. Such an ugly look.
    I contend it’s easy to still look fashionable and be comfortable. Lovely flats. Nice, soft cotton tops and very good jeans. Bold accents.
    I don’t want to have to think of you in 20 years time in mu mu’s! Say no!

    • Ah, but Toby, how wonderful it would be if I could actually develop an interest in clothing! To be honest, I find it such a bore to shop and dress — when the garden and other creative passions demand my time. And when I do shop, I’m so quickly made despondant by the ever-changing fashions designed for waif-like tweens, or baggy Mumsy floral prints and elastic-waisted skirts. Perhaps, as you suggest, if I could simply find a smart, casual “uniform” of sorts, which could be my default look, I might have a chance! But, to be honest — and I know I am commenting on a fashion site here, and will be in the minority — I just can’t get excited about what I put on my body. In fact, I’m generally startled that I have a body at all — except to use as a tool. Oh dear, I must seem startlingly odd to you!

  26. Oh no, dear MaMa MuMu,
    I hear you. have wasted too much time on trying to look fashionable. What I suggest is that when you find a comfortable, stylish look, it can become a uniform, My chums here joke at me because I have so many black clothes. If I find a top or jeans that I like, I buy two or three so I don’t hsave to shope again. Make it work! I do wear flat front j
    eans with a bit of elastic in the back. Good for when dinign out or doing stupid household chores.If you have a uniform, of sorts, then all you need are good accessories and then just don’t worry about it. I wear signature eyeglasses because I am legally blind – a stupid US term, but it works for me,
    I wish I had a garden to potter in and I bet you have a happy life. I like your attitude and whish you lived near me and could be my buddy,

  27. My nan always told me hurty shoes give you bunions and used to show me hers to underline the point…meep! I’ve spent most of my adult life looking for gorgeous shoes that aren’t miniature torture chambers. I used to work in an office so it was really a pressing need to find nice shoes that I could wear all day. I’ve found that kitten heels and wedges seem to be the most flattering styles which don’t cause footly trauma. I have three pairs of shoes which other women always try to mug me for: 1. Sempre Di. These are kind of expensive but they are worth their weight in gold. I bought my first pair from La Cobbler in Canberra. They are calf length, tan, round toe, kitten heel boots that other women continually exclaim over. They make me feel like a lady musketeer, like Catherine Zeta Jones in Zorro or something 🙂 Gorgeous with trousers or skirts/dresses. 2. Naturalizer. Feel like slippers, look so classy and understated. Women have actually stopped me in the street wearing my fave pair, little red suede mary janes. When I had to take them off at airport security, the guard held them up when the tray came through and called out “whose little red dancing shoes are these?” and everyone started swaying like they couldn’t stop the David Bowie earworm invasion. Priceless. 3. Faith. I found this UK brand at Redpath Shoes in Canberra. They’re a bit more young and trendy, but still do some beautiful, wearable styles. My most treasured pair are baby pink leather slingbacks with kitten heels. Like the nude coloured shoes which started cropping up a few seasons ago, they elongate the legs, but AREN’T the colour of a waterlogged 3 day old bandaid (blech!). They go with everything – and I followed Maggie’s rule and bought a pair in pastel yellow, too. Finally, if you have a bit of money to burn, Peter Sheppard (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) fill me with indescribable shoe lust, and they do special fits and sizes and orthotic-friendly shoes. Maggie, I have to ask…at the races…don’t you find it awful, all those gorgeous young girls…wearing the most appalling stripper shoes? I’m 29 and I love fashion, but I believe those stiletto platforms actually detract from the overall look. Is that bitter of me? Or are those lurid satiny shoes really naff?

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