BY LENORE SKENAZY
RELEASE: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2011
Was it a hooker convention?
No, I know for a fact it wasn't, because I had been invited, too. It was simply a suburban bat mitzvah -- a coming-of-age party for a sweet eighth-grade girl and her hooker friends. Er ... her fashionable 13-year-old friends in their 5-inch high heels. (And 5-inch skirts. But that's another story.)
Apparently not content to simply tower over 13-year-old boys on their own two feet, the girls donned stilettos to approximate the models in the magazines. But little do those girls realize they also are approximating the leading economic indicators.
Or, rather, they are mirroring them. That's according to Advertising Age magazine, which notes that as the economy goes down, ladies' heels go up. In the Roaring '20s, heels were as flat as flappers, until the stock market plunged and shoes went soaring. Think of Ginger Rogers and how, as was famously noted by the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in high heels.
Fast-forward a few decades and we get (however reluctantly) to the 1970s, when platform shoes clomped onto the scene, thanks to John Travolta and, I guess, the oil crisis. So says Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert with IBM Global Business Services who tracks trends by tapping into Twitter tweets and other high-tech chatter.
Davis adds that heels hiked up again in the most recent economic downturn. The average height of heels being mentioned in social media was 3 inches for the first half of 2008 but a whomping, stomping 6 inches by the end. That's a doubling of height even as the economy served up a heaping helping of housing market horror. Health reporter Gretchen Voss found that women's visits to doctors for foot complaints rose 75 percent from 2005 (prosperity!) to 2009 (feh!).
But now Davis says heel height is going back down, perhaps because better times are ahead or perhaps because we were losing too many 13-year-olds to altitude sickness. This is good news, not only because millions of people may finally claw their way back to the middle class but also because I hate wearing heels.
Yes, I know they're supposed to be sleek and sexy, but not if you're one of the women who put them on and feel as if they're balancing on twin toilet paper rolls. How sophisticated can you look when you're grabbing people's ears to keep from falling?
I wish I could do the whole towering thing, because heels almost always have indicated power, from the ancient Egyptian nobles who wore them (at least to have their hieroglyphs taken) on through the Middle Ages, when people rich enough to afford fancy shoes would attach wooden soles to the bottom to sally through the muck on the street, right on up to the Sun King, Louis XIV, who wore 5-inch heels decorated with battle scenes. (A bit of a mixed message there.) Louis Louis also declared no one else could wear heels taller than his, which I would take as a blessing.
High heels have been hurting our feet, our ankles and, it seems, our economy for too long. We owe it to our country to make flats fashionable again -- and fast. Ladies, remember: We ARE the 50 percent! It is time we took to the streets ... in nice, comfy shoes.
Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" and "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know -- But Can't Remember Right Now." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.