LOW HEEL LUST

...take the low road

by Maria Lazareva
While some are still desperately trying to add those extra inches with sky-high stilettos, a revolution in the shoe department is underway and we at NJAL have let out a sigh of relief. You can pluck and tweeze all day (and night) long, but feet can only take it so long. So after seasons of staggering on mounting heels an end to the balancing act has come. Today we are hot for the more subtle glamour: the low heel.

For centuries women and men both wore high heeled shoes. The craze started in France and Italy, spreading to the rest of the continent. As women’s skirts got longer and more layered, the heels became higher to help them elevate themselves and prevent from tumbling over the hem lines from the inside. From 14th-15th Century in France the length of the heel also indicated social status and aided the upper classes in gaining importance, whereas peasants were prohibited from wearing heels altogether. This continued until 1791 when Napoleon revolutionised the trend by banning high heels in the attempt to illustrate equality.

Those intentions for wearing heels are, however, long gone and forgotten. Today we are prepared to live the high life in the low heel. And although some may think that it hasn’t scored much on the lust front, women no longer need the high heel to look seductive as designers are embracing softer heels and concealed platforms, which add height, but at the same time are backbone and feet friendly. Surely stilettos still have a place in our closets, but trendsetters are smitten with the effortlessness that the low heel emits.

There is something about it that reflects an elegance of the first lady. Imagine Jackie O’s 1950s trademark winkle pickers with 3-inch stiletto heels for the gold-screen glamour paired with a simple pastel-coloured geometric dress. For the more daring and wild there is the defining look of the 60s – what are known as ‘Go-go boots’, either calf, knee or above knee-high boots with a low or flat heel. Go-go boots took the stage when fashion silhouettes focused on accentuating the leg following the revolutionary introduction of the mini skirt by Mary Quant and have been worn by 60s style icons, from Jane Birkin to Brigitte Bardot. Otherwise, put on a pair of oxford ties, also an invention of the 60s, for the more preppy androgynous look such as NJAL’s Anntian has shown with the low square-shaped masculine shoe.

Other NJAL designers have looked into the low heel as well. Ankur Gupta has transformed the well-known gladiator sandal into a low-platform, multi-colour gladiator-shoe with a twist, and Anuschka Hoevener reinvented the ankle bootie with a low kitten heel in her F/W 2010 collection. A sisterhood of three that works under the label Cogama brings you many low-heeled timeless clean shoes in which you will find no overload and no excessive décor; these are shoes that bring a whole outfit together, the shoes that you wear and not the other way around.

For a more dramatic silhouette but equal comfort, Elizabeth Dunn makes traditional English shoe-making contemporary. Her designs are greatly inspired by the elements of the earth and come in deep, clean colours, eliminating the resistance between rawness and glamour, and building alliances between roughness and refinement. Her heels may be slightly higher than what we would conform under ‘low’ but that is compensated by their width, which makes them all the more comfortable. They are a cross between 18th Century timber-heels and something Dita Von Teese may wear.

The low heel certainly adds for a cheekier look. Think pin-up girls in high-waist shorts and peep-toed mary-janes, pirate boots with buckled straps, or sliver wedges for a daytime safari look. Opt for a sleek, and highly mobile, wooden sole sandal with a low cylinder heel, or a leather boot with a square heel for an equestrian look.

In terms of psychology, lower heels of square or round shapes are more characteristic of women who want to be in the right places at the right time, spending all their immeasurable energy on the accomplishment of many tasks. They are as highly mobile as their heels and it certainly is worth adjusting to them to become that kind of woman. In addition, science has proved that those indulging in sky-high stilettos are more prone to headaches.

All the more reason to go for the lower heel! Warning: once tried, you may never want to take the ‘high road’ again. Whoever says that wearing killer heels makes them feel at their most fabulous and that with no pain, there is no gain, is clearly bluffing. As long as your eyes are on the stars, you can confidently keep your feet closer to the ground.