The intricate and complex history of high heels has led to a variety of cultural thoughts and lens through which people view them today. Firstly, it is very exclusively gendered in the sense that few men wear high heels in present times. Secondly, magazines like Playboy, as well as other media sources portraying women in a sexual way, often do so using high heels. Paul Morris, a psychology researcher at the University of Portsmouth, argues that high heels accentuate "sex specific aspects of female gait", artificially increasing a woman's femininity. Respectively, the arching of a woman's back facilitated by wearing high heels signals a woman's willingness to be courted by a man. Keeping this sexual undercurrent in mind, heels are considered fashionable for women in most cases. It could be semi-formal with a "button down silk blouse…jeans and high heels." Or, it could be formal with a dress or pants suit. Finally, 20th and 21st century cultural values have dictated that high heels are the norm in professional settings for a woman. Some researchers argue that high heels have even become part of the female workplace uniform, and operate in a much larger and complex set of display rules. High heels are considered to pose a dilemma to women as they bring them psychosexual benefits but are detrimental to their health. The 21st century has introduced a broad spectrum and variety of styles, ranging from height and width of heel, to design and color of the shoe.
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With the 1900s bringing two devastating world wars, many countries set wartime regulations for rationing almost all aspects of life. This included materials previously used for making heels, such as silk, rubber, or leather; these began to be replaced with cork and wooden soles. Another one of the numerous outcomes of these wars was an increase in international relations, and a more proliferate sharing of fashion through photography and films, which helped spread high heel fashion as well. Examples of this were the brown and white pumps with cutouts or ankle straps combined with an open toe. Their practicality yet professional look appealed to the new, fast-paced lifestyle of many women.
The design of the high French heels from the late 1600s to around the 1720s placed body weight on the ball of the foot, and were decorated with lace or braided fabric (pictured). From the 1730s-1740s, wide heels with an upturned toe and a buckle fastening became popular. The 1750s and 1760s introduced a skinnier, higher heel. The 1790s continued this trend, but added combinations of color. Additionally, throughout all of these decades, there was no difference between the right and left shoe.
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In the UK in 2016 temporary receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home unpaid after she refused to follow the dress code of firm Portico. Thorp launched an online petition calling for the UK government to "make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work". Two parliamentary committees in January 2017 decided that Portico had broken the law; by this time the company had already changed its terms of employment. The petition was rejected by the government in April 2017 as they stated that existing legislation was "adequate". Existing legislation allows women to be required to wear high heels, but only if it is considered a job requirement and men in the same job are required to dress to an "equivalent level of smartness".
High heels can instantly dress up a once casual outfit. Go from wearing a t-shirt and jeans during the day to slipping on black high heels and a leather jacket to transform your outfit into a fierce and edgy night look. As far as a specific style suggestion, block heels are a great choice for everyday wear. Grab a pair in brown, nude, or black to match with almost any outfit. These stylish heels are always flattering and look adorable with skirts, dresses, or jeans. Spice things up with a pattern and grab a pair in cheetah print, because who doesn’t love to get a little wild?
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