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Heel appeal: how the sexy shoe became the new status quo

The catwalk has recently favoured outrage over allure. But now, whether its the Duchess of Cambridges vertiginous Pradas or Rihannas beloved rhinestone Saint Laurent boots, high heels are back

The Duchess of Cambridge has new shoes. On the offchance that it is not immediately obvious to you why this development is culturally significant, allow me to explain. The duchesss style is remarkably consistent: for as long as anyone can remember, she has worn pretty clothes in eyecatching colours, teamed with neutral pumps, the heels of which are high enough to look formal while remaining walkable. LK Bennett Sledge courts, which have a subtle platform sole to make them more comfortable, are a favourite. Yet, for the unveiling of the blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum, she wore a daringly bare, vertiginous pair of Prada sandals.

Now, the duchess is no early adopter. Conservative with a small c, she stuck with those nude pumps three years after everyone else was bored to tears with them. So, if even she is wearing a sexy shoe, the sexy shoe is the new status quo. The ultimate It shoe of the upcoming season makes the duchesss Prada sandal look like something you might slip on to buy a pint of milk. Saint Laurents rhinestone slouch boots were a phenomenon from the moment they hit the Paris catwalk. Within days, Rihanna had Instagrammed herself in a pair with the one-word caption obsessed. Customers were ringing stores demanding to know when there would be a waiting list to join. Net-a-Porter has spent more on the boot than on any other item this season; and months before they were visible on the site, half had been sold to VIP customers. Oh, by the way should any appear on the open market the price tag is 6,000.

Duchess
Royal footwoman … the duchesss scalloped suede Prada sandals. Photograph: netaporter

Ridiculously expensive, borderline unwearable and aesthetically outrageous nothing new there. A shoe like that hits the headlines every season. Two years ago, it was the fur-lined, backless Gucci loafer that you couldnt afford, couldnt wear on the pavement and couldnt get on the waiting list for. Last year, the must-have shoe was anything in velvet, arguably the least appropriate fabric for a British autumn. Crazy shoes never go out of fashion.

But what has changed this season is the seduction factor. For most of this decade, fashions focus has been outrage, rather than allure. From flatform sandals to embellished trainers, shoes have been brightly coloured, tactile and ornamented, but they have been Man Repeller shoes, rather than date-night shoes. This was in stark contrast to the Sex and the City era, when the emotional appeal of shoes was inextricable from sex and romance. The show was sometimes hilarious on the subject (Carries Manolo registry, when she gets married to herself in order to get more shoes) and sometimes awful (Bigs shoe-closet proposal, which neatly represents the witlessness of the spin-off movie when compared with the TV show.)

The physiological purpose of a high heel is to accentuate curves by tipping breasts and bottom into an S-shape and exaggerating the sway of hips in motion. However, by 2010, two years after Sex and the City had hit the big screen, catwalk heels had become too high for this to work. Alexander McQueens Armadillo shoes had heels of almost 12 inches and a prehistoric claw-toed silhouette that was defiantly non-sexy. By summer 2014, there was a fashion week stampede toward high-end flat shoes: crystal-studded walking sandals at Prada; couture trainers at Chanel. The Gucci loafer mania of the following year kept heels low until last year, when the wind changed with the return of the kitten heel at Vetements and Christian Dior, and the over-the-knee boot trend, pioneered by the Hadids and the Kardashians. When the new season arrives in stores, Calvin Kleins ankle strap sandals are likely to inspire a host of high-street copycats.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/jul/18/heel-appeal-how-sexy-shoe-became-new-status-quo

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