Health foe. Confidence booster. Female oppressor. No other shoe style has taken on as many roles as the high heel or had those roles as passionately debated. Throughout their long history in Western fashion, high heels have changed shape and had new ideas about femininity, performance and compliance heaped on them. Warnings about the health dangers of chronic high heel use also have a long history, with medical professionals counseling against them for almost 300 years. Still, high heels have remained a staple of womenswear, always returning after brief sojourns out of style. This thesis unpacks the high heel, first looking at the effects of high heel use on the body before turning to the history of the high heel and discussing the reasons why countless women have endured a shoe that is by design uncomfortable. Then we look at attempts to reengineer high heels so that they are more comfortable for wearers and discuss the future of high heels in the footwear landscape. The thesis concludes with a discussion of how attempting to fathom the long narrative of high heels can change your relationship with the object.
Unraveling The High Heel
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