Friday, 12 November 2010

Exploding the myth: not all women are obsessed with shoes

Despite the vicious rumour perpetuated by Carrie Bradshaw, Imelda Marcos and the like, not all women love shoes. Many, including myself, are markedly indifferent to them and endure with a grimace the effects of this popular misconception.

For starters there’s the commonly held erroneous belief that a man can get any woman into bed by complimenting her shoes. I have visions of this new gospel being whispered from one wide-eyed gullible Romeo to the next. Whoever started this falsehood must have brainwashed his disciples with the following logic: praising a woman’s footwear must mean that a) you’re in tune with what’s important to her and b) you’re the sort of bloke who notices the little things and, supposedly, girlies love that.

Well, yes, we do like it when you pick up on small details. However, any headway made is then negated when the best you can offer is: “I like your shoes”. Please, not that old chestnut. When men have made a big fuss over my footwear I have assumed they either had terrible taste or were plain lying; my shoes are routinely the worst part of my outfit.

Chaps, listen, there’s no such thing as a fits-all compliment or holy grail of the chat-up line. Getting it wrong actually makes you look worse than saying nothing, as then we only suspected you were a moron.

But what I really dislike about current shoe mania in popular culture is the tacit subliminal suggestion that any old frump with no knowledge of the matters of style can suddenly become a trendy fashionista by saying “Oh I love shoes, I can’t resist a pair of gorgeous shoes.” Oh, so wrong.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll defer to higher authority. Coco Chanel nicely put it by saying: “Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress.” Just as sex appeal and instant femininity cannot be achieved by suddenly cooing over the latest creation of Manolo Blanhnik.

Not only that, it’s also becoming the most god awful clichĂ©. We’ve seen it on the TV shows and now accept it as an unwritten lore. Rather than stressing how individual you are it has quite the opposite effect, announcing loud and clear to the world that someone else has to make these decisions for you on what you’re supposedly passionate about.

Call me a fat fascist if you want but I can’t help noticing that this phenomenon is more common amongst larger ladies. I understand that feeling - to some extent. When you’ve gained weight, nothing fits and the shops are full of gamine size six assistants glowering at you, the solace found from a non-judgemental sling-back can be very comforting indeed. But it’s a sticking plaster on a broken limb.

Hiding behind shoes that bolster your confidence won’t give you the impetus to lose a few pounds, which will undoubtedly make you happier when you look in the mirror. It’s fine for Sarah Jessica Parker to prance about drawing attention to her feet as the rest of her body is pretty much perfect. She’s not using them as some sort of diversion. And if that is your goal, think about how realistic it is. Large body, small feet. It’s going to have to be some pair to disguise your entire frame.

So can we, please, all drop the pretence that irrational behaviour around impractical footwear is an essential characteristic of being a stylish woman? I don’t care if this makes me sound like my mother: killer heels, narrow toes and other instruments of podiatry torture aren’t very good for you. They damage your back and in some cases have a most unfortunate effect on posture. Who hasn’t seen that girl walking down the street in incredibly painful looking shoes leaning so far forward it looks like she’s running away from her own bottom? There’s no way that can be beneficial to her long term health.

You only have to open a celeb magazine to see grotesque pictures of Victoria Beckham’s bunions caused by years of wearing shoes which deformed her feet to the point where she needs major surgery to have them removed. While we all wish Mrs B the best when she goes under the knife for the first time, ah-herm, we should remember that this injury is self-inflicted.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting we should all bin our stilettos in favour of a sensible lace-up pair from Clarks to be worn exclusively for the next 20 years of our lives. Statement shoes can be awesome, and glamorous as hell. Worn with a simple outfit, like any eye-catching accessory, they’ll look stunning. But this is the little secret no one tells you, they don’t have the power to miraculously halve your BMI or turn you into someone totally different. Read more by Rosie.