Why Wear Heels- Untying the Times
By Ashley Kromrey
There is an iconic scene in the 1988 movie “Working Girl” in which Tess (Melanie Griffith) travels to work in white sneakers only to change into her heels when she arrives at the office. While many of us find the humor in this, the character’s commute from Staten Island to Wall Street proves to be just as challenging as her trek up the corporate ladder. While we’ve come a long way since tube socks and Keds, the reason why women don’t wear heels at the office is related to how comfortable our footwear has become.
Today, it’s no surprise that those who travel to New York City for work face the longest commute time in the country. New York City’s weekday population grows by 608,000 with the number of people commuting a week. Among 30 of the nation’s largest cities, New York City tops the charts with a grueling six-hour and 18-minute weekly commute time. For many, that could entail a great deal of walking. Beauty may be pain, but the physical pounding of the pavement may override the designed fashion accessory statement on our feet.
When did women transition from stepping confidently into the office wearing power heels to hiding our ugly Uggs under our desks? From 1940 to 1945, the female labor force grew by 50 percent (and their shoe closets probably expanded as well) due to many of the men heading off to fight in the war. This caused a labor shortage, which was followed by a government creating the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign, used to lure women into joining the workforce. This movement changed history and fashion. Working women’s relationships shifted from patriarchal authority and fixed ‘role scripts’ toward more flexible ‘role negotiation’ and egalitarian relationships. Then came the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which in addition to “Rosie the Riveter,” gave women a great deal of momentum. This led women to have more empowering attitudes, sexuality and eventually, social status, and take pride in wearing statement shoes.
The shoe known as the kitten heel, became popular after four-inch stiletto heels left dents all over city floors, thus being banned from museums and courthouses. Though obviously not as fashionable and sexy, kitten heels were safer to walk in yet, still remained elegant and classy. This was the start of contemplating the comfort concept over being viewed in society as fashionable and put together within the female mind, questioning why wear heels. Then a bigger step came for womankind, the “flat ties,” known today as “flats.” Among flats, was the iconic Audrey Hepburn black “ballet shoe” with a thin bow on the top, which had women following in her footsteps, literally. Rushes of Flats are seen daily commuting, and are now considered a staple shoe.
Looking around Hoboken during rush hour, there is hardly a heel in sight, nor that clicking sound on the pavement. Today, women practically fly to work in record time. Why wear heels, when women now can simply lace up their Nike’s or rock their Converse. Whatever the choice of shoe, comfort is prevailing in society, and shoe designers are beginning to recognize that trend. The trend is catching on as brands are making shoe-carrying bags like Comfy Commuter and Shoe Along, so as to not dirty your designer bag. Working women have achieved the right to work, be proud, be flexible, be confident. The average woman today owns at least 20 pairs of shoes, and that’s being modest, any episode of Sex and the City can tell you that. With a wide span of shoe choices now, why wear heels. But we ladies appreciate how far we’ve come and we can decide what to put on our pretty little feet, just as long as we remember that it’s okay to feel like Cinderella sometimes.
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