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These Shoes Aren’t Made for Walking

The modern woman, whether of cosmopolitan or backwoods background, will most likely count in her possessions a pair of high-heeled shoes. While the essential purpose of shoes may vary from protection to projection of professional appearance, it is the specific reasons for being of the iconic high heels that should be brought in focus. Moreover, it is no longer relevant to discuss merely basic high heels—the emergence of its designer variety that makes room for argument and debate.

From Miu Miu to Moschino, Fendi to Ferragamo, from Christian Dior to Christian Louboutin, designer high heels have conquered popular culture and carved their niche in history as symbols of a much larger universe—that of sex, status, and branding success. 11. A Short History of High Heels The renowned Italian mark on designer shoes lays claim to the origin of heels, documented by the marriage of Catherine de Medici to the Duke of Orleans in 1533. The 14-year-old royal, being of petite frame, commissioned a shoemaker in Florence to create heeled footwear purposely for this occasion.

Soon after, high-heeled shoes came to be in vogue in Europe with the invention of chopines, which were dangerously high shoes that reached up to 24 inches; these were coveted by women of the ruling class, for the height of the shoes was commensurate to their status in society. Even in 18th century France, when opulence was practically regarded as a crime, heels remained in existence, making its presence felt at historical moments such as Marie Antoinette’s beheading in 1793, where she wore 2-inch heels.

From this time in Europe until the late 19th century, high heels kept their status as women’s favorite accessories; in 1888, the United States joined the foray, with the opening of its first factory. High heels greatly differed in height depending on the era, for later they were no longer accessories but actual responses to society and significant events. During the elegance and extravagance of the 1920s, when hemlines rose and bare legs were the norm, heels again reached decidedly greater heights. The infamous stiletto heel—the ultimate incarnation of the high heel—was invented by Roger Vivier in 1954 for the House of Dior.

III. Sex, Status and Signature From a practical standpoint, designer high heels fail in almost every aspect—price, use, and health. Most, if not all of them, are incredibly unfit for walking, pose unsafe effects on the body, and are priced way out of the average consumer’s budget. But they represent constructs that comprise their manufacturers’ and target market’s aspirations—including sex, status, and, on the marketing level, brand success. The widely popular American TV series Sex and the City, featuring the lives of four women in New York, may be one of the key movers of the designer heels lifestyle.

While all four are portrayed to have inclinations towards consumerism as a way of life, it is the main character, Carrie Bradshaw, who professes an untamed preference for designer heels. Bradshaw is shown in various episodes resolving her personal and professional issues by purchasing a pair of Manolos; also, she often asserts her sexuality by stepping into her newest pair and parading around fashionable Manhattan. In one episode, she is overwhelmed by the shoes on display in a chic boutique, and refers to them as her new “lover”.

Indeed, sex and heels, specifically stilettos, have had a thriving relationship emulated by most women all over the world. It is interesting to note that the designer stilettos’ share of market consists mainly of single, upwardly mobile women, at the prime of their careers with the pay scale to match. Considering this demographic, it is the need to assert one’s sexuality, which may equate to power, in the workplace. Films like Disclosure (1994), starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore, depicts Moore as the ultimate femme fatale with career ambitions that reach as high as the heels she is shown wearing in every scene.

On the opposite end, a woman who does not have the determination and endurance to stay in her high heels is relegated to the lower rung of the corporate ladder, as seen in the character of Melanie Griffith in the film Working Girl (1988). In the typical corporate setting, as implied by the movies mentioned, a woman is established to have a better chance to be noticed, and, consequently, be given more career chances, if she projects an image of no-hold-barred sexuality. That she has the intellectual capability to pursue the goals set is another matter altogether.

To put further emphasis on the connection of high heels with sex, recent studies have indicated that, surprisingly, high heels or stilettos can be beneficial to a woman’s sex life. Dr. Maria Cerruto, a researcher at the University of Verona in Italy, has discovered that the continuous use of these shoes gives the legs muscle tone and even strengthens the pelvic muscles. She also noted that wearing heels keeps the pelvis elastic and toned, and may produce greater sexual pleasure.

This discovery attempts to relate the already sexual undertones generated by the wearing of high heels to logic and scientific reason, that still works within the realms of sex. Famous shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, who had been criticized by many about the unhealthy effects of his creations on a woman’s posture, believes that this finding is a validation of the benefits of stilettos—primarily for thrill and excitement brought upon by attraction of males. High heels are also the prime focus in the subject of fetish, particularly, for shoes.

Also known as retifism, shoe fetishism is defined as a quirky preference for sexual attributes in shoes; it may also reveal a psychosexual disorder or sexual relationship issues. This disorder has been featured several times in media, an example being yet another episode of Sex and the City—where the character Charlotte is seen in a shoe store, being urged by the salesman to keep trying numerous pairs of shoes, a scene that ends with Charlotte’s discovery that the salesman was receiving sexual pleasure from seeing her in different footwear.

On the other hand, status is the main concern in buying designer shoes—not fashion or appeal. Decades ago, the ability to own any designer item was equated to class, celebrity, and age. Now, however, the influence of media has convinced audiences that having designer possessions is essential, creating a materialist lifestyle that appears accessible—yet at the same price points as before. The pressure generated by seeing celebrities like Jessica Simpson, the Olsen Twins, and Paris Hilton touting signature items engages even the young to indulge in this luxury.

More and more, TV shows and magazine feature the standard identification of what celebrities are wearing or are endorsing. Of course, the fact that they get the designer items for free may conveniently escape their fans. Even more distinct is the preferences of these young shoppers—choosing items with designer logos emblazoned on them. This then creates an exclusivity coveted by the impressionable young, translating to higher chances of social acceptance, as well as the honor of being a trendsetter.

Status also equates to price, and taste. A pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes can set one back from $555 to almost $15,000 per pair—an incredible amount of money for footwear. But the popularity of the brand may mean that more people know how much they cost—and that knowledge can easily be the foundation for women to believe a pair of designer heels can boost her status in society. Blahnik shoes promise added height and allure; its actual purpose of walking is not factored in the equation.

The success of designer heels is measured by the recall of the designer’s name, or, in marketing terms, its brand. If earlier eras of fashion history can be defined by clothing styles popularized by designers, in recent years it has been all about bags and shoes. Shoes, or heels, in particular, have achieved much press and publicity that they have gone from being just well-crafted items for display to the psychological make of their patrons. From the sex and status concepts previously discussed rises a reality that may just redefine marketing and branding.

The record sales of designer heels have prompted the designers and their business groups to take advantage of the momentum, by making huge business moves, many of them on a global scale. The Italian brand Prada has made further designs on its American market share by opening four additional stores, invluding two in New York—on top of their existing ones. Same is true for Ferragamo, coming into the arena with two more New York-based shops. Legendary brand Gucci has enjoyed over double its regular shoe sales, coming from a successful brand repositioning campaign.

Brand success equates to premium prices and status; as long as a designer is able to clearly define and maintain his or her brand on very distinct lines, more consumers will easily identify it and relate to the personality being upheld. Key considerations would be the personalities brought forth to endorse each brand—they must carry the traits and characteristics desired for the brand, and desired by the market. While Gucci and Chanel are symbols of classic designs and convention, Dolce & Gabbana and Miu Miu spearhead trends and individualism.

Blahnik and Louis Vuitton have more affinity towards commercialism and pop culture, while Ferragamo and Christian Dior bring with them stature and credibility. IV. Theoretical Framework On the practical level, studying the success of designer high heels and the brands that carry them may be done from an economic viewpoint. It can be defined through the parameters of consumerism, which is the approximation of personal happiness and satisfaction with the purchase and consumption of material things.

Credited to the rise of the middle class in the beginning of the 20th century, consumerism has achieved its full extent with the advent of globalization, or the accessibility to any idea or object on equal opportunity all over the world. More specifically, the research done on designer heels may be more apt to be discussed in terms of conspicuous and invidious consumption, terms that refer to lavish or extravagant spending on luxury items with the objective of displaying wealth, attaining status, and affecting envy.

As proven by the exposition of women’s penchant for designer footwear, utility or use s not a prime consideration. Because such factors as sex, status and brand are really the main players in the consumption patterns of this market, it is clear that narcissistic and addictive behavior is prevalent in the process—usually resulting in compulsive spending and abuse of credit. The desire for immediate gratification, in this case, upgrading of social status, appeal to the opposite sex, and brand success, is the reason for existence of the shoes in question.

As an alternative framework, the feminist theory may also be applied to the case, seeing as sex figures prominently in the process. The standard manifestation of designer stiletto heels echoes various sexist connotations, including the need of a woman to project a feminine image, as opposed to masculine—which is exactly where gender inequality begins. To probe further into the reasons why women prefer these shoes would be to confirm the existence of a male-dominated social system, which dictates how women are supposed to present themselves. V. Methodology

Media is the foremost avenue in the research made, since the concept of designer heels is contemporary and relevant enough to be featured in a wide variety of sources. Fashion magazines are effective measures of market acceptability, since most women-oriented publications banner print ads that sell designer heels, with subtle promises included, such as (1) achievement of physical beauty, (2) male appreciation, and (3) maintenance or upgrade of social status. Films and TV shows likewise depict designer shoes in a positive light, usually associating them with rewards and success for the female protagonist.

The few times that designer heels are shown negatively (e. g. , worn by the antagonist or used as a murder weapon) still convey ideals of mystery and sex, both used as desirable concepts. Popular culture also lends itself easily in the study, with the daily intrusion of music, movies and fashion, and the celebrities that are featured wearing designer heels. A quick run-through of available data also confirms the flourishing business of manufacturing and sales of designer heels, with most of the renowned brands enjoying global awareness and increased sales.

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