I spent many nights scrolling through apps on my phone. TikTok, explore pages on Instagram and sometimes less used apps like Goodreads. But what I find most exhilarating at one o’clock in the morning, on a not-so-exceptional Tuesday, is Pinterest. The miraculous visual discovery engine has given me too many aesthetic ideas for the past few years. A bedroom wall painted yellow, a complete reorganization of my office space and a fashion tip here and there.
On a particularly unusual Tuesday morning about a year ago, scrolling Pinterest for outfit ideas seemed to be the bane of my existence. Reinventing myself was part of the college experience, but so far the only thing I had changed was the length of my hair and the odd mix of options unrelated to my disciplines. What I was looking for was waking up. A return so breathtaking and unparalleled that no one would have any idea what I was really coming back to.
And so, there it was. In the lower quarter of a very elegant photo of a very elegant gentleman with a very elegant outfit was the heeled boot. And when I say heels, I mean heels off the ground. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. And I guess it was like nothing someone else had seen before. This was exactly the problem hovering over my conscience.
The clock kept ticking and ringing and doing whatever it usually did, but my mind raced and my heart found itself in the proverbial good place. I scoured every website I could think of, every fashion page I followed, and every blog I followed, desperate to find something like the Pinterest post. And alas, there it was. A pair of glamorous black 2 inch heeled boots, the likes of which I had never seen. So sharp they could deflate a baboon’s bottom or stab a magpie’s eye. So shiny that it could reflect the sun’s rays in a cool, superhero way. And to top it all off, a subtle yet sexy black flash nodding to the sexy side of the heel itself.
Despite social taboos and the lingering scent of fragile masculinity from my residence to City Road, I hit the buy and a week or two later sex appeal became my middle name. Winter was coming, no, it had arrived, and you could hear me from a mile away walking up and down the steps of the social sciences building feeling like I was on top of the world.
So that’s how my ancestors must have felt. That was what it meant to march into battle and return victorious. Now a fierce symbol of femininity that strutted down the catwalks and caused a stir, the humble heeled shoe once belonged strictly to the realm of menswear.
The heel emerged at the edge of the tenth century. The Persian cavalry who, when mounted, wanted to keep their feet stronger in their stirrups. Their use of heeled footwear captured the aesthetic interests of the general public, and by the 17th century heels became a symbol of power and status for those who wore them. With the departure of Persian diplomats to the imperial courts of Europe, the craze for the Persian world flourished.
The modern heel has continued to be prevalent in modern life. The Cuban heel is important in traditional flamenco dancing. The heel became a key element of the looks that marked the decade in the 70s (platform shoes), 80s (huarache style with thick heels) and 90s (small heels).
The more I think about the heel of such a powerful piece of plastic, suede, and/or leather, the more I associate it with power. The power of the Persian nobility and its adaptations in other empires lives on and is celebrated in different forms today. While it’s not always the case, these examples of heels portray men in ways we don’t often see.
There is also a whole community of gender non-conforming people and drag performers who also use the heel in a subversion of gender norms.
While a pair of shoes isn’t the only thing that energizes such great feelings of power and self-esteem, they are definitely a step ahead. They can act as a very literal symbol of overcoming a contaminated and restrictive approach to masculinity, even though they are often only associated with femininity.
If you hear footsteps approaching you on campus, know it’s me. Rain, hail or shine, these heeled boots will make an appearance, unless I have something dapper enough to match them, but that’s another story.
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