Well Heeled: The Power of a Shoe

princess diana flat wedding shoes

If you’ve been reading fashion magazines (or, any kind of magazines) of late, I don’t need to tell you that flat shoes have made a return to the sartorial front line. From the A/W catwalks to the streets of London, fashion’s default vertiginous heels are being replaced by sensible, demure slippers.

As a high heel devotee, this trend shift is a little disconcerting. Ever since I handed over my month’s allowance in exchange for my first pair of metallic strappy slingbacks at aged 15, I’ve been sold on the power of the heel. They make me walk taller, feel better and, to be brutally honest, look better. At 5’8 I don’t really ever need a pair of stilettos to give me a vertical boost, but there is something really satisfying in being a head above everyone else trudging down the pavements. My feet are a constant battleground of blisters, but I’d rather suffer the pain than go heel-less for a big occasion.

And I’m not the only one. The first stiletto heels emerged in the 1940s, and hailed designer Roger Vivier made them popular in the 1950s. Seductive, sexy, and the ultimate finishing accessory for any femme fatale, highly heels were popular with screen sirens like Marilyn Monroe.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, heels were associated with a fun, fashion-forward attitude. Platform boots and shoes broke the conservative style rules of post-war austerity. Heels were finally on the fashion agenda – and they were here to stay.

Princess Diana famously forwent high heels whilst married to Prince Charles for the sake of not being taller than him. She even wore delicate lace slippers (see above) to her wedding. For years, her lengthy frame was finished off with diminutive, unfussy flats. Come the 90s, a newly single Diana found her fashion flare – and her heels. For Diana, heels were a sign of independence, confidence, and being unafraid to take what she wanted.

In the twenty-first century, heels only continued to get higher and higher. Platforms, studs, chains: you name it, it was there.

So, after years of paying homage to the high heel, why the sudden reversion to the flat? This Autumn’s rise of the flat shoe is unexpected to say the least. Anarchic in a way, it’s like a breath of fresh air after years of heels getting higher and higher. I’m not talking about ballet flats, either. Those scrappy flaps of leather with their irritatingly dainty bow should go straight in the bin, now.  This season’s flat shoes mean business. Brogues, loafers and reassuringly structured leather slippers adorn the feet of fashion’s most followed celebrities and models. Buckles, mannish styles and chunky hardwear are given a definite yes.

alexa chung flat shoes

The evening choice of this season? The mid heel. (Or, a kitten heel if you are prepared to be chastised by all around you.) If you just can’t bear to go flat for night time, a teeny tiny heel is the fashion verified way to go. Anything chunky and suitably ‘ugly’ (this season’s hottest fashion buzzword) will earn you extra style points. The usual suspects – Zara, Topshop and Office – have flat shoes aplenty to help you channel your inner Alexa Chung. Team brogues with printed cigarette mans for a satisfyingly mannish look, and flat slippers with cute dresses for a down-graded evening style.

Has the heel finally been laid to rest? I very much doubt it. As is always the way, the style cycle will turn its wheels, and heels will be back on the agenda before you know it. For now, I’ll be challenging myself to step out after dark in shoes that actually allow me to feel the floor…

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