History of Shoes

High Heels in Nosebleed Territory

Written by Kaycee Hale
January 3rd, 2013

Infograph courtesy of IBM.


Are we shoe shopping, high-heel wearing, fashionistas inadvertently contributing to our lackluster national economy and European financial crises? Is the height of our high heels the reason that there’s volatility in the NYSE and that the Europeans can’t seem to stop kicking that financial can down the road?


Has sexy, glamorous shoe design been the culprit since the 2008 American financial meltdown? Or as has been posited by an IBM report, is fashion design/shoe design now determined by the social media, i.e. shoe and  fashion bloggers?


I had rarely thought about it until I heard about that shoe design, heel height report. A USA Today newspaper article stated the following:


  • In the 1920s, low-heeled flapper shoes gave way to high-heel pumps

and platforms during the Great Depression.

  • In the 1970s oil crisis, platform shoes came back en vogue as the low-heeled sandals of the 1960s were cast aside.
  • In the 1990s, the low, thick shoe heels of the ‘grunge’ period were replaced by Sex and the City-inspired stilettos just as the dot-com bubble burst.


IBM Global Business Services consumer products expert Trevor Davis said, “usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up…”  OMG.  It’s been said that between 2008 and 2009, high heel heights ranged from 5”-8”; whereas, by 2011, shoe bloggers were writing about the return of the kitten heel, and that the ballet flat was here to stay—forever.


So what fashinably shoe-designed high heels do you see the most when you shop your favorite shoe store? Lady Gaga’s 8” glamwear or ballet flats? Shoe and fashion bloggers, beware. Are we promoting the problem or simply observing the retail shoescape?


And one more thing…  I’m so confused. I thought that it was the hemline index (according to economist George Taylor) that was the time-tested index of economic prosperity or austerity, i.e. the shorter the skirts, the higher consumer confidence soared, and longer skirts symbolized “caution and a stock market downturn”.


So what am I to believe when the heels are in nosebleed territory and skirts hover “slightly” below the hipline?


Coleen Sherin, Saks Fifth Avenue Senior Fashion Director, is quoted as saying, “I know that people like to take an economic read from heel heights, skirt lengths, and selling red lipsticks, but it’s just the cycle of fashion”.


Well maybe, just maybe, we should all start buying ballet flats, wearing longer skirts, and throwing away our ubiquitous red lipstick. Not!


Oh, well. Let’s go shoe shopping. 

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