On high heels in the age of #KuToo

I was reminded yesterday of a photo I took in 2015 of a young woman changing her shoes for fashion shoot in Soho. I had been taking photos of women in the process of changing shoes and wanted to add it to the collection. I asked if I could take her photo and in the course of our conversation discovered she was friends with both my sons. Below, Natasha aka @spashems:

I have previously blogged a couple of times on the theme of women changing shoes but wanted to bring the images together. The first in my series was taken back in 2005.  In this photo Justine is at home getting ready to go salsa dancing –  changing from sturdy work clothes and putting on designer, open-toed silver shoes. I like the surreal, binary opposition between the representation of the legs:

In the photo below the woman is changing in heels on a Soho pavement as part of getting ready for a night out:

I’ve also witnessed the converse – here’s a woman on London Underground changing into flats:

A couple of months ago a news item caught my attention. A woman in Japan, Yumi Ishikawa, had been campaigning for the right to wear comfortable shoes at work but the labour Minister claimed that high heels are necessary. There is now an online movement and change.org petition  asking for Japanese women to have the choice to wear flat shoes. The petition goes under the name #KuToo, alluding to the #MeToo movement.  The social media hashtag references the Japanese words for shoes (“kutsu)and pain (“kutsū).  There is widespread medical evidence that wearing high heels for extended periods not only causes foot deformities and but contributes to back, hip and knee issues. One of my former jobs involved standing all day working at an outdoor market stall and I could never have managed it in heels.

One of the strategies of the Japanese movement is to encourage men to try working in heels all day, so that they can empathise with the difficulties women face. The petition itself also states that they protect the rights of heel lovers to keep wearing them and that this right should not be restricted to women only: “We should also protect the rights of men to wear heels when they want to. There’s no reason why only women can wear them.” I do agree with that. Below a picture I took of an all-gender Dancing in Heels class in London’s Islington:

Increasingly I prioritise comfort and freedom of movement, especially as I walk around a lot, often carrying a camera. I still wear heels from time to time, but these tend to be have a lower sturdy heel, as in a retro character dance shoe. The image below is a studio portrait postcard of one of my relatives, the beautiful Shifra. I imagine the photo dates from the 1920s. She is displaying the mini handbag but my eyes are drawn to her shoes which are in a similar vein to shoes I wear when I’m not in trainers or Birkenstocks!

I have always loved fashion and the creativity of dressing up. In the photo below, taken in the 70s, I am going to a party. I’m wearing my dad’s bow tie and shiny white platform shoes with massive heels:

In the selfie below, I am wearing a fab pair of Dr. Martens given to me as a birthday present last year by my sons. They have accompanied me on many thousands of comfortable, secure and decorative steps!

Despite my personal choice to prioritise freedom of movement and comfort I still get excited about certain shoes with heels, and sometimes photograph them as a kind of souvenir. Here are a few examples. A woman wearing “nude” leather stilettos with flamboyant orange satin ribbons:

Winter 2017 Burberry window display –  high heeled tartan sandals worn with argyle socks and a lace maxi dress:

Appealing to my inner child –  a  shop window in Carnaby Street featuring wedged shoes with ballerinas inside perspex heels:

Below a photo I took a couple of months ago in Venice of a couple waiting at a vaporetto (water bus) stop. I like the combination of the very feminine quasi-bridal strapless, gauze dress – which judging by the man’s suit was intended for a formal occasion – worn with comfortable flats. Venice is a prime example of somewhere where comfortable footwear is vital;  you are not going to get the full experience if you cannot go the distance!


Also published on Medium.

1 thought on “On high heels in the age of #KuToo”

  1. Wow this photo blog on women’s shoes is brilliant. Can’t wait to share it with my friends, sister’s in laws daughter and daughters in law.
    Loved meeting you at Gabriella’s wedding. Dalya Hakimi

    Reply

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