There is hardly an area in fashion and clothing where the difference between the sexes is as clear cut and strict as in shoe fashion. A really telling demonstration of this is right at the beginning of the movie The Abyss - where the camera shows a bunch of soldiers getting out of a helicopter. All you see is their army boots. One by one, they land on the ship with a practiced routine. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a pair of elegant high heels land gracefully after the army boots. The contrast couldn’t be more eye-catching (see the photos below). Femininity radiates from those high heeled feet so strongly that we know with absolute certainty that this is a woman wearing them despite the fact that we weren’t shown anything else yet. That woman, by the way, is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio with a great performance throughout the movie.
This scene really makes clear once more, how strong these secondary gender codes can be and it is absolutely not surprising that a number of people get fixations on women’s shoes. In fact, shoe obsession as a representation of femininity is quite natural and normal if you consider the symbolism that society attaches to womens shoes - in particular high heels.
I wrote in my article High Heels for Men that in today’s times, men are more free to wear high heels and shopping for them is easier than ever. While that is true, it is also true that, in everyday life, men’s shoe fashion is still highly restricted while women’s shoe fashion knows virtually no restrictions - certainly none that stem from gender codes. Now while I like challenging such boundaries and the fairness monster inside me roars at the imbalance of the genders, I also can’t help wondering if we wouldn’t loose some of the meaning attached to symbols like high heels if they were men’s shoes as well as women’s shoes. That helicopter scene would never have such an impact and nobody would get excited about shoes in the same way. Would that not constitute a loss to our culture? Would it perhaps only lead to society finding other symbols of femininity to use as gender codes? Or what would happen if the genders were one day exactly equal except for their anatomical differences - meaning no fashion or behavioral differences? Would society turn into a big grey mass of unisex people without the conflict, energy and excitement that arises from gender differences? These are all fascinating questions that I’d love to read some opinions about.
Check out my article: Men Wearing High Heels
Lucy83 (author) on July 31, 2012:
you know, that does depend on the heels. None are comfortable but some are outright impossible. Lucky for you (or her) she didn't pick the killers.
erik99 on July 29, 2012:
After tiring of me saying wearing high heels can't be that hard. My g/f made a bet that I couldn't wear high heels for 4 hours straight. If I won then she would have to be my personal maid for 4 hours and if I lost I would have to be her personal maid for 4 hours. We picked a pair of 4 inch strappy heels that tied around the ankle. Since I wouldn't go outside she picked indoor activities for me to perform. My outfit ended up being a full bibbed lace apron, a black thong and the heels. She first coached me how to walk. It killed me but I did housework for 4 hours and won the bet. She paid up and I enjoyed my 4 hours with her. Later I realized we had both won as she got 4 hours of housework done by me in any case. She liked it so much she is now buying a French maid outfit for me along with a pair of 5 inch stilletos for a new bet she has in mind.
han brouwer on May 08, 2012:
i love to walk in high heeled shoes 4-6 inches i prefer,my walking is feminine and so
are my clothes,i am not gay but just an ordinary crossdresser and to be the lady for a while,my shoes are the top on the whole
Lucy83 (author) on March 27, 2012:
Well I do - even without a broken caps lock.
AKIS on March 26, 2012:
AM A REAL MAN...BUT I;M EXCITING IN IDEA TO BE WAIRING THE SAME SHOES TO FEEL LIKE MY GIRLLLLTELL ME YOUR OPINION GIRLS!COULD YOU WANT TO SEE MEN WITH STILLETTOS?
hijon on December 24, 2011:
i have always had a struggle with why non gay men wanting to wear heels,
at the end of the day they are only n pair of shoes with an "elevated heel platform"
jaychem73 on June 24, 2011:
I could never imagine myself wearing high heels, but I find them very. very attractive on women. They are certainly part of the feminine mystique and add to her erotic power, whether they be in public or more intimate settings.
Rikkie Lee from Ontario, Canada on December 15, 2010:
Thanks Lucy for your appreciation of my thoughts, but it was you who first posed the provocative questions. As for tights, seeing as one can purchase tights and pantyhose for men, I'd say they ARE part of men's clothing again. Just not enough guys have tried them yet to know the wonderful feeling!
This morning I'm wearing vintage seamed nylons, with a very vintage garter-belt, under my pink and black nightie. They all feel so nice and are delicately feminine!
Lucy83 (author) on December 15, 2010:
Thanks for the awesome comment Rikkie!
If only we could look into the future to see how it all goes on. Things will definitely change but some things will probably not as you say. I wonder if tights will ever become men's clothing again?
Rikkie Lee from Ontario, Canada on December 14, 2010:
Good questions, provocative reading! What would happen if the genders could dress exactly the same, would society turn into a big grey mass of unisex people without the conflict, energy and excitement that arises from gender differences?
First off ... not likely to happen because our ingrained attitudes (the ones we love to poke fun of and push the boundaries ever more) resist change, and as much as change is inevitable, there always will be those who are traditionalists.
Secondly ... as much as there are those who move toward the middle of the gender spectrum from either extreme, there are those who seldomly (if ever) question their assigned gender or sexuality birth and expected roles. And for those who do, there will continue to be ample opportunity to experiment and play, try different things and enjoy the results.
I am so thrilled that something as simple as a pair of high heels and sheer stockings can have such erotic appeal, because not only do I appreciate the stated femininity of the wearer, but when a male would choose to wear the exact same thing (for whatever purpose) it says "I want to be like her too!"
John N on November 23, 2010:
Lucy, like you article on skirts for men, highheels for men is a topic which has become a no no since ythe French revolution.
If one looks at history, the Egyptian priests were wearing heels already. Lateron heels were used again by men when horseriding in order not to slip through the stirrups. In the Golden age men wore heels in order to indicate their importance and rank in the society, Generals would be wearing even red heels as indication of their position (now the red band on their caps). The boots worn now by women are mostly derived from the horseriding boots used by men in the past, especcialy the over the knee boots, used to protect the knees.
Nowadays it is difficult to get boots like these in larger sizes, which does surprise me as women become taller and thus their feet will increase in size also. All which is available in womens size 12+ is to be considered ok in respect of role playing etc. but not suitable for daily life.
Whether of not society will turn into a turmoil I don't know. The most important thing is that people shouod realise that things which seem to be granted have not been so always. Equality of rights goes beyond the lining of the pockets.