I hate high heels.
Okay, I don’t really hate them. But I have strong feelings about them, and most often those include at least a tinge of hatred.
When I was just a toddler, I was normal in this regard. I would get my mom’s nicest pair of high heels and strut around the house in them with my Hello Kitty socks and I would feel so grown-up—never mind that there was a clear three-inch gap between my heel and the heel of the shoe. I dreamed of one day being “big enough” to wear real heels that would suit me. The ones that will make me a big girl, or even a woman!
And then I made a mistake. It might be this mistake that’s exactly the reason why I hate to wear heels today. In my country, we have a prom of sorts after middle school, and it’s the first big reason to get all dressed up at the age of 14. My mom chose my outfit: I wasn’t really the happiest about it, but turned out she knew, better than me at time, what suited me and what was appropriate for the occasion. I conceded to her clothing choice, but I wanted to pick the shoes. It was my way of having at least SOMETHING be my decision, and I went for gorgeous four-inch black heels that looked amazing.
I think it’s safe to say that that choice ruined the evening for me. Prior to the occasion, I had never stepped into anything other than sneakers. I knew the world as it was—and suddenly I had to rise. Literally. It was like letting a baby deer out on the ice. I didn’t fall, but that’s mainly because I spend the whole night sitting. Everybody was dancing, but me? “I’m fine, really.”
So when other girls in high school started wearing heels every weekend, I hesitated. My black beauties never let me forget that night. I knew that I’d been stupid, I knew they’d been too high for a first timer, but I couldn’t shake the fear of failing in heels again. I remained loyal to flats. I tried wedges from time to time, and they were bearable; I even wore high heels to my senior prom. (It was much better that time, but I still happily took them off when the official part of the night was done, and changed into my Chuck Taylors.)
Then college came, and what had only been apparent occasionally in high school became more and more prominent: I looked like my friends’ younger sister. I am on the shorter side, so wearing heels when we dressed up would help raise my appearance—literally and figuratively. I know I will never be as tall as a model and I’m not going after that look either; but I could, both in theory and practice, look like a normal girl, like all the other girls around, if only I could bear to wear high heels.
I realized that I differed. High school was all about being and looking different. Back then, I was a hippie with a thousand colors on me and peace sign earrings. But once I got over that phase, I realized we’re all different anyway and left looking different to hardcore punks with green hair and furry animal print coats. I was more concerned now with trying to look like an adult with responsibilities, trying to blend in—not in an invisible, “I’m not here” kind of way, but more of a “I am a mature member of society” way.
So, bearing in mind that’s what young women “should” do, knowing that it’s what makes their legs and glutes look really nice, enhancing the whole figure, knowing that I’m short… I bought a pair of nice heels that I’m not even sure deserve to be called high. I could have easily been the only one who noticed they were high heels at all. And I put them on and I went out dancing. I stayed out all night. I wanted to die.
Yes, they make me look awesome. Yes, that’s what many women wear. Yes, I do look better in heels than in flats. Yes, I’m being mature. But why hasn’t anyone told me they also hurt?
I generally dislike heels because I dislike physical pain (duh). People started to tell me things like, “Oh, yes, sure, but that’s only until you get used to it.” I was skeptical: it would mean willingly doing something that hurts just so it wouldn’t hurt anymore. Okay, I’m guilty of plucking eyebrows, and all sorts of methods of removing unwanted hair, I suppose. But this…this was different. I look like Chewbacca when I don’t do my eyebrows. When I’m in my Chucks, I just look short. (And let me remind you, short is what I am.)
I’ve tried. I have been making the effort for almost a decade now and I guess it’s not as devastating as it used to be. But still, wearing heels hurts. People have also told me the key is in finding a comfortable pair. So last summer I found a great pair of leather sandals at a great price. I wore them while covering Berlin Fashion Week, and that involves a lot of walking. I survived; it wasn’t that bad! But even a comfortable pair has its limits. For mine, it was a wedding and dancing for eight hours. That’s how much time most of us spend sitting at a desk. I think my feet needed three days to recover.
Making a sacrifice for the beauty seems to be quite a common concept, but when it comes to heels, I’m positive I don’t want to make any. I am aware they make me look older, or complete my outfits better, or make my legs look sexier. Is all that worth the pain? No, for me it isn’t. And I don’t believe I am any less feminine in flats.
As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in linking a notion of a “proper woman” with any physical feature, be it a part of the body or something put on it. I do believe that my height does not determine anything else but how tall I am. The world will just have to deal with a shortie in flats.
What team are you on? Show us your shoe closet on Instagram @feather_mag with the hashtag #freeasafeather!