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Why do tall women wear high heels?

Why do tall women wear high heels?

PM, Lord’s Cricket Ground

Why does any woman wear high heels? As regular readers of this column will know, I find the enduring existence of high heels both a frustrating mystery and a testament to the triumph of women’s neuroses over their mobility. I have been told that some women find wearing high heels easy. And that’s great! GOOD FOR THEM. But I bet they’d find walking in flat shoes a heck of a lot easier. I once interviewed a celebrity who told me she “couldn’t think in flats”, leading me to wonder if maybe the problem was she couldn’t think at all. See? Not only can I think in flats, I can be a right bitch in them, too.

But your question is interesting, PM, because it reveals a common male misunderstanding about high heels (and rest assured, nervy Guardian readers, I am not making any assumptions about gender – I know PM is male because he asked me this question in person, at Lord’s, while I was watching a cricket match, something else I can do in flats.) You, understandably, think women wear high heels to be taller, but you are sorely underestimating the mental minefield that it is to be a woman.

Oh, I know, men, I know: things are ever so complicated for the modern male these days. Should you hold a door for a woman or not? (Yes.) Should you offer your seat on the train to a pregnant woman or not? (Yes.) Should you wear aftershave or not? (No.) Is it OK to chat up women or does that now count as sexual harassment? (Depends how harass-y your chat is.) Honestly, it’s a marvel that you cope with this veritable minefield of dilemmas!

But occasionally a question will pop through my postbox – or, in this case, be posed to me on the stands at a cricket ground – that will remind me how simple the world is when viewed through the average man’s eyes, not because the men themselves are simple, but because they are not weighed down with the amount of bullshit women are.

Now, at the risk of stooping to bad-chicklit level of gender stereotyping, when I imagine a man’s perspective of the world, I picture a sunny, two-dimensional landscape, sort of like level one of Super Mario Bros (and yes, I am referencing Super Mario Bros for the second week in a row in this column). A land, you see, where clothing choices are made by what fits and what doesn’t, where food decisions are made by whether you’re hungry or not. A woman’s perspective of the world, however, is like when your TV aerial has been knocked out by the wind and the picture is an angry, staticky mess, where everything you choose – what to wear, what to eat, whether to eat – is freighted with a million twinges of self-loathing and soundtracked by the furious voices of rage that live in almost every woman’s head: “You’re too fat to eat that doughnut!” “You’re so ugly you may as well eat that doughnut because only that doughnut will ever love you!” “Fat!” “Ugly!” “Infertile!” “Gah!” Ahhh, sing it, Tammy Wynette.

I remember the first time I listened to the Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free, and I got to the moment at the end of the majestic last song on the album, Empy Cans, when Mike Skinner muses, “My jeans felt a bit tight, I think I washed them too high, I was gonna be late so I picked up my pace to run”, and this difference between the sexes struck me anew. Again, I appreciate this is probably the worst kind of gender stereotyping, but I think I’m safe in saying that this is the kind of line only a male singer would write. A female singer, on the other hand, would say, “My jeans felt a bit tight, oh God, have I put on weight? It was probably because of that doughnut, wasn’t it? Oh sure, try to blame it on the washing machine, but we all know it’s because you’re a heffalump. THERE IS NO HOPE.”

Which brings us, eventually, back to the high heels issue. You, PM, as we established, see high heels and think, “Aha! Women wear them to look taller.” Women see them and know there is much more going on here, such as, just off the top of my head, looking thinner; looking more feminine; being able to wear clothes that only look good with high heels (which to me is like making a car that only works in sunny weather, but whatever); looking thinner; making your legs look longer; having a more seductive walk; looking more defiant; feeling more confident (if immobile); looking thinner; looking thinner; looking thinner.

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So, as you can see, PM, there are many reasons a tall woman might wear high heels. The femininity issue is, I suspect, quite a common one, as height – bafflingly – is too often seen as an unfeminine quality in a woman and so, rather than being seen as yet more unfeminine by clunking around in a pair of flats, lots of tall women reach for the high heels. And yes, this makes them taller. Like I said, PM, being a woman is complicated. There might also be a bit of “Yeah, I’m tall – I’m tall and in high heels. What of it, shrimp?” going on, which I salute completely.

I think the real thing to take away here, PM, is that a tall woman wears high heels for many, many reasons, most of which will seem completely bewildering to you in your sunny, two-dimensional landscape. Don’t ask her to explain (she might beat you round the head with a stiletto) – just enjoy your sunny, angry static-free view.


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