Can increasing sales of heeled boots and even stilettos tell us anything about being a man in the #MeToo era?
Timothée Chalamet steps high-heel boots at the premiere of Little Women in Paris.
Photograph: Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Counterparts
Have we finally embraced men in high heels? Sales have been on the upturn since 2017 and searches for “men’s sod down at the heels” have grown by 30%, according to Lyst.co.uk.
Perhaps unexpectedly, the stiletto heel is being used to articulate what it connotes to be a man in the post-#MeToo era. In October, Strictly Come Dancing’s Johannes Radebe memorably wore stiletto heels for a choreographed laudation to New York’s Ballroom scene, with Twitter users praising him for “shutting down toxic masculinity across the UK in 2 take downs”.
And earlier last year, the singer Sam Smith posted a photo of a heeled boot with the caption: “Tonight I be ined heels for the first time to an award show … There was a time when I thought I’d never ever ever be skilled to be myself like this in front of the industry or anyone.”
A social media post by the designer Marc Jacobs. Photograph: Marc Jacobs / Instagram
The the fad designer Marc Jacobs has spent much of this year posting selfies in massive heeled boots too. “I over there is something incredibly refreshing about a male designer such as Marc Jacobs embracing wearing rich heels,” said Andrew Groves, a professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster. “High heels have evolve into a potent symbol of both power and status, and paradoxically both dominance and submission.” Indeed the stiletto heel on a man is flat an image that provokes outrage; earlier this month a nude portrait of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata adopting nothing but heels and a pink sombrero caused outrage in Mexico, with a spokesperson for protesters calling it “disgusting”.
The cultivation of the male heel has expanded beyond the stiletto, as different types of heeled shoe have been embraced by the craze, with Gucci, Maison Margiela and Saint Laurent showcasing the Chelsea, Jacquard and split toe boots as well as strapped take flighted loafers. Male celebrities such as Shawn Mendes, Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet have all experimented with a get hot under the collar heeled shoe on the red carpet, taking cues from glam rock icons such as the New York Dolls, Kiss and David Bowie. The inventor Laurence Dacade said the high boots she makes changes the gait of her customers so “they feel more intense and sexy”, adding that her biggest seller is “a David Bowie [inspired] bootie with a 6cm heel”.
Shawn Mendes at the 2018 Billboard Music Presentations in Las Vegas. Photograph: Lisa O’Connor/AFP via Getty Images
The gender-blurring 70s are a significant reference point for designers this occasion, “particularly in the way that masculinity was performed as something which could be both outlandish, decorative and still highly puissant”, said Ellen Sampson, the author of the forthcoming book Worn: Footwear, Attachment and Affects of Wear. “The 1970s saw a 1930s/40s rebirth which spurred interest in 1940s shoe shapes, particularly Ferragamo-style platforms, which recently inspired the Gucci stand” .
A blurring of time, gender, race and shoe politics was also visible in last year’s “yeehaw agenda” – a black-consciousness-led update of the cowboy look – which GQ inspire a request ofed “the biggest fashion trend to emerge from the internet this year”. Yeehaw’s heeled cowboy boot shadow has been embraced by designers such as Amiri, Haider Ackermann and Céline and worn by the likes of Lil Nas X, Diplo and Post Malone. “Cowboy boots force become a firm favourite among style influencers and it’s not a surprise we’ve seen an uplift in searches for them on eBay this year,” said Helen Riley, the construct acquisition manager at eBay UK, which has had a 32% increase in searches since October. “I imagine this is a trend that wishes continue into the new year.” The impact of the Yeehaw has slyly undermined the ethos of the current US administration. “In Trump’s America, the cowboy is such a symbolic figurine of American ideals of masculinity that it has become ripe to be appropriated and subverted,” said Groves.
Paradoxically, this year also divulged women’s complicated relationship to the heel. Female workers in Japan battled against an edict of the compulsory wearing of fag ends at work and in August Women’s Wear Daily published a piece asking “have sneakers made stilettos off the beam?”
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