EVERY ONCE in a blue moon, the editor in chief of this paper will form a rare-but-strong opinion on ladies' fashion. Such was the case when he burst into my office the other day, fresh off a plane from Las Vegas. Brushing aside my questions about how he did at the craps table, he launched into a rant about how infuriatingly stupid all the girls marching up and down the Strip looked in their high-heeled shoes.
Whoa, whoa, whoa: At 5'2" (debatable, according to my husband), the majority of the time I'm in some kind of heel. It's long been understood that if you can't walk in a heel, you shouldn't wear it, but those of us who do so regularly take a certain measure of pride in being able to not only walk in them, but to do so for further distances than from car to dinner and back. Sure, there are extra-vertiginous heels I won't plan on wearing if I know I'm going to be walking a ton (like, say, drunkenly cruising the Las Vegas Strip), but in general I deem them necessary and fine. So when he suggested I write a column about high heels becoming a thing of the past, I initially balked. "I'm not the right person to make that argument," I said.
Thinking of it since, though, there's some merit—and a lot more nuance—to his point. A stiletto is not a platform is not a wedge, for instance, and the cardinal rule of shoe purchases is that when it comes to height and comfort, it pays to spend more. Good, more expensive shoes are hands down more comfortable than their cheaper counterparts. And while shoe heights have soared in general in recent history, they've often done so with the leveling assistance of a platform heel, which neutralizes the angle at which your foot points to a more comfortable approximation of normal. Even in styles that aren't going full-bore '70s high, small platforms have become commonplace in modern designs, and the heels themselves have become thicker and more supportive.
"I wouldn't ever, ever, wear stilettos again," agreed fashion show producer (and Mercury contributor) Elizabeth Mollo. "Women are heading to a more functional place, and I think that includes great looking and comfortable footwear that one can actually walk and live in for extended periods of time." Couple that with the fact that women have increasingly been embracing more moderate, clog-inspired heels along with oxfords, ballet flats, and sneakers, and it's easy to imagine that we could collectively refuse to return to the pinching blisters of yesteryear for good.
Fashion of course is a fickle mistress, and it is quite likely that the stiletto will make a return at some point. But with shoe design having evolved to the point where alternative ways to achieve height without risking misery are so plentiful, it seems like the brighter future is one in which women heed to the pressure less than ever before.