Monday, 3 September 2012

Time wounds all heels

I’m no Carrie Bradshaw.

Despite my arty-farty aspirations and claims that I don’t follow trends cos I’m more interested in my own personal style, no-one has EVER put the word Fashionista anywhere near my name. 

I simply cannot work myself into a paroxysm of girlish glee at the sight of a spikey-heeled instrument of torture that everyone from Vogue, to Nuts, to The Independent tell me I must dribble with desire over if I’m a REAL woman.

Even in my teens, back in the dodgy days of the early '80s when being in fashion meant nicking my Dad’s jumpers and stretching them beyond all recognition, I was several degrees ‘off’ from the uber-cool ones who made Oxfam rejects look amazing. I just looked like a slightly confused, over-sized wannabe art student who pretends to read Sylvia Plath poetry but really prefers the sophistication and subtlety of 1980s British TV comedies like ‘The Young Ones’. I was simply not put on this earth to be a clothes horse.

For a start, my body is NOT fashion friendly. I’m more like a messy, effusive St Bernard puppy than a Whippet. And like my doggy soulmate, I have a tendency to unwittingly provoke damage wherever I go with my manicly wagging tail and insanely grinning mouth.

Secondly, I HATE shopping. With a passion. I’m convinced that I develop a genuine physical reaction after the first 30 minutes of traipsing round the shops, trying (and failing) to find that perfect something that both sends the right message about my personality and (crucially) fits without making me look like a demented hairy mammoth on speed.

It’s not just the awful sameness of everything in the shops – and by implication, the way we’re supposed to present ourselves to the world – it’s also the soul-destroying strip lighting in the changing rooms and the sneers of assistants as I try to coax a pair of must-have jeans up any further than the lumps of correlated fat above my knees. It's just SO boring - and sweaty.

When others talk about 'shopping therapy', I'm mentally checking the Yellow Pages for specialists who can fit me in for an emergency session after I've endured an afternoon of shop-trolling. 

It’s not that I don’t like new stuff. I LOVE new stuff! But the process involved in getting it (even without the screams of protests coming from my credit card) seems to eclipse all the joy.

Thirdly – and this seems to be the real ‘clincher’ – Mandi doesn’t do heels.

At 5 foot 10 inches (1.78 metres to you metric bods), I never have, and never will. Despite protestations from almost all my girlfriends that the right heels will make my hated, lumpen legs look amazing, I’m unconvinced. Images of the certain chubby girls from my schooldays in the '70s and '80s parading around in bare legs (in February) and stilettos are still burned into my brain, bringing to mind purple mottled thighs and the phrase “pigs on stilts”. I have enough trouble with my body image without adding porcine elevation, stabbing pain and the ability to look over the heads of EVERYONE on the bus, instead of just 90% of the passengers.

The few occasions on which I’ve been persuaded to give high heels a go have not ended well. The unaccustomed change to my posture makes we walk like someone suffering simultaneously from sciatica and severe gastroenteritis. My ankles have panic attacks and simple collapse sideways the minute they’re lifted more than a couple of inches from the ground. And if I manage to hobble my way through the day in heels, I pay for it in blisters, swollen ankles and shooting arrows of agony through the balls of my feet. 

Frankly, I'd rather people would just focus on what's going on from the neck up than obsessing about what I'm wrapping around my freakishly long toes and cracked heels.

Everywhere I look, I see woman in high heels – apparently not in agony. This worries me. How can they DO that? Is there something anatomically incorrect about me? OK, I’m a big lass, but I see super-sized Weebles out there strutting their stuff with six-inch nails coming out the heels. 
How do they do it? 
Levitation? Meditation? Heavy sedation?

If I don’t drool over a ridiculously overpriced of (admittedly nice looking) pair of designed-labelled courts, I feel like I’ve put myself into the corner along with the other oddballs, mis-fits and freaks (again). And if I express my distaste at a pair of hooker heels, I feel like the world is looking at me as if I’ve just exposed myself as a smelly, hairy, man-hating feminist. 

Believe me, I don’t hate men.

Maybe, despite my height, I’m part hobbit?
The idea of never having to wear shoes because you’ve got a nice pair of comfy feet that take care of themselves with tough leather soles and warm, hairy uppers sounds like the ideal solution.

And if you want to make a fashion statement from the ankles downwards, all you need is some funky hair dye and some curling tongs....


  1. I love the fact that my two best friends hate shopping and high heels with the same degree of passion that I adore them. How about I meet you both in the coffee shop three hours from now? ;) xx

  2. Wow, 5ft 10in is PROPERLY tall, and if you trip and fall over it's a long way down. And you live in the Med, where women are usually shorter than their Northern European sisters. You have no need to elongate and totter. Comfort, stability and safety are more important.

    As for people who can wear heels, they can because they do so habitually, and in the process their physiology, balance and deportment is transformed, altered and even - let's face it - distorted. For smart and dressy shoes I usually manage a heel between 1.5" and 3" as I was a teenager in the 1970s and nothing more precipitous was called for. My comfortble heel is about a 2" with a good 1 sq in bottom to it, in contact with the ground. I can't totter and teeter on stilettos.

    I know my limitations, and have compromised with the medium snesible heel beacuse I am a medium sensible person, not much taller than average at 5ft 6in and of medium sensible build. 2" extra height is nice. A slight lengthening of the ankle and calf is nice. Enything more is a risk to health and personal safety, and simply not worth it in my book.

  3. Well, all this could explain why I sort of (no, totally) lean towards the retro look. I work the evening shift, with Mondays and Tuesdays off, which means I have absolutely no social life. Dressing up is only for weddings and very special occasions. But shoes "back then", even the ones with heels, were more comfortable, and clothing was cut with the waistline where my waistline actually is (not two inches above my pubic hair, as the fashion industry is trying to convince us).

    I have completely rejected the dress standard of today. I have not been inside a mall in over 20 years, and am SO much happier for it. If I have to clothing shop, it's at thrift stores. I've found some amazing bright orange leather oxfords (Fluevog) that were on sale, and my regular work outfit includes a 1950's men's button down short-sleeved shirt, jeans, and flat shoes. Occasionally paired with a men's tie, a scarf, and/or my 1920's waiscoat. I've got two vintage fedoras in my arsenal - one grey with a black band, for casual, and one all black for more snappy outfits.

    I also wear vintage cat eye glasses, and regularly decorate my ensemble with mid century pins and bits and bobs. Definitely not "in", but "interesting". I find that since I've embraced my own style, people actually respond much better to me than back in the 80's when I used to spend two hours in the bathroom doing hair and makeup and pouring myself into designer jeans. I've relaxed, become more approachable, and feel more comfortable in my skin.

  4. Lol! Oh bless you! I have to admit I'm a heel lover but have had to cease wearing them as often because I have stupid feet! Grrr!