Sometimes I wonder if I love how organized my high heels look in my closet more than how they actually look on my feet. Often, while I’m getting dressed in the morning, it will occur to me how good an outfit would look finished off with some platforms or wedge boots. It’s always at the last second that I decide, “Nah, not today,” and replace them with some sensible flats that won’t make me look too out of place and that don’t carry the risk of potential discomfort.
When I see the rare Wesleyan student proudly strutting to class in tall platforms, I applaud him or her and feel jealous on occasion. Yet when I follow their example, my feet start to hurt not long after strapping on my heels. Now that winter has long since descended upon us, climbing up Foss in five-inch heels is even more daunting. In any weather, let alone in the mud, ice, and slush of a Connecticut winter, this task seems nearly impossible. With all the ice that just won’t seem to disappear, I can hardly climb Foss in flat footwear, let alone a good stiletto.
Of course, the idea that high heels are shoes that are marketed toward women inevitably raises a few questions about gender roles. A wise woman once said (by wise woman, I’m talking about Amanda Bynes’ character in “She’s the Man”), “Heels are a male invention designed to make women’s butts look smaller…and to make it harder for them to run away.” If Ms. Bynes is correct, nobody should be strapping on a pair of six-inchers solely out of a need to look how society tells us we’re supposed to look. While Wesleyan women are accustomed to a liberal campus climate that encourages all styles of dress, female students at other colleges often face more traditionally gendered fashion norms.
Still, high heels can be fun for reasons that aren’t so socially constructed; for those of us who have successfully run across the street or down the sidewalk in giant platforms—I’ve had my moments—it’s so liberating to say, “You can’t walk this tall, and I can run even taller.” For better or worse, something about that height boost just makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.
Noticing the odd Wesleyan student teetering to class in sky-high heels, onlookers can’t help but ask why. Why shove your foot in a steep and unstable casing? Why tower above everyone else? Just to say you can? To hear that clack-clack as you walk through Exley and know that you’re the one causing the commotion? At other schools, students generally use the excuse of a more formal party scene to break out the high heels. Without many sorority mixers or black-tie formals, we here at Wes are left to decide for ourselves when a good platform is appropriate. There will likely be more girls dashing into Beta in pumps than chilling outside of WestCo, which is perhaps a testament to some apparent compatibility between Greek life and fancy footwear. While students at big-city schools have more reasons to dress up on a day-to-day basis, it’s rare for a Wesleyan student to don a pair of high heels to go to class or on a casual weekend. But some of these brave students walk among us. It’s worth recognizing their struggle for any opportunity, even a morning class, to walk tall.
We shorter girls understand the appeal of suddenly seeing eye-to-eye with our peers. On the other hand, some of the taller girls feel as though they can’t wear heels simply because they’ll tower above everyone else. There is definitely a degree of self-consciousness that can accompany the thought of looking even more giraffe-like than you may feel you already do. On the other hand, there is something incredibly desirable about having legs that go for miles, and heels can only amplify this awesome power.
There are those gifted people who can really walk well in heels. And there are those who cannot. There are those who claim to find high heels entirely comfortable. They may be telling the truth. They also probably have bunions and broken arches. I personally don’t find walking in heels to be more difficult than walking in flats, but then again, I’m not great at staying upright regardless of the shoes I wear. The incline of a shoe doesn’t hurt, but it certainly doesn’t help either.
Wearing high heels can be empowering until you fall and break your ankle. I can only handle teetering out of my dorm so many times, but I’m determined to keep trying. I will forever look on with jealousy at those brave souls dressed with the perfect amount of polish that can only come from a pair of heels. To the Wes student rocking pumps: go ahead and call yourself a daredevil (there’s a lot of grass on this campus). Even though you may not jump out of airplanes or dive off of cliffs, you wear those high heels and you wear them proud. Know the risk, but also know the reward.