It’s time to kick up our (sensible, mid-height) heels again | High heels
It has taken a long old time but things have finally returned to normal. The pandemic is gradually receding in life’s rear-view mirror. We are still ravaged, the scars are still there – people lost, years lost – but we have relearned how to blur the scars with makeup and small talk. We have gone back to worrying about all the stupid things we used to worry about before we had that to worry about.
You know how I can tell? Because of shoes. Covid killed the high heel and elevated the slipper into a style icon. At the end of lockdown everyone went hysterical. Some declared they’d be flats-only for ever more. Others embraced Revenge Dressing in reckless spindly heeled sandals that they couldn’t walk in. And some changed their mind every weekend, pinballing from the trainers-only camp to the four-inch heel brigade.
But for the past month, the footwear I have worn most has been a pair of knee-high snakeskin leather boots bumped up on an inch of kitten heel and some square-toed loafers that sit on a chunky two-inch block. So the wearable heel is back – and it’s not just me. I’ve been travelling to fashion weeks for most of the past month, and everywhere I go – in airports, on pavements and in pizza restaurants – I see others in them too.
Last winter, the chunky stomper was the only boot in town, but this time around there are lots of block-coloured midi-length dresses swishing around the calves of non-stompy leather boots. Trouser shapes that don’t hug the leg are definitely happening – either a pleat-front loose trouser, perhaps a loose leather jogger, definitely a cargo pant – and the women wearing them are figuring out that they look more fun, more lighthearted, if the foot isn’t too caged in. So instead of trainers I’m seeing them with sandals where it is warm enough, or with a block-heel court.
There is even a whole bunch of mid-height heels on the catwalks themselves, which is unusual, because wearable, comfortable shoes with a bit of a heel but not too much are like hens’ teeth in fashion. Designers prefer to make grand, showboating statements with dramatic pancake flats or super-high heels. Pancake flats are fine if you are 5ft 11 and mostly legs but most of us could use a little boost, you know? And a towering heel is an instant showstopper, but a fashion show lasts 15, 20 minutes, max. Whereas when you or I are getting dressed at 7am, we have to live with our footwear decision all day, whether we get a seat on the train or not.
There is no shame in making the sensible, middle-of-the-road decision. If you are invited to a party, it doesn’t have to be a binary decision between staying at home (which might feel a bit flat) or going out-out till 4am, which is high risk. You see where I’m going with this, right? The mid-height heel is the two-glasses-of-wine, home-by-midnight option. Call it sensible; call it the best of both worlds.
And there are lots of ways to make a modest heel look more exciting. A simple kitten slingback or a block-heeled court looks brilliant in a neon bright or an animal print. If it’s black, maybe go for shine. A flash of bare skin always adds a frisson: a closed-toe with a low-cut front will do this, without requiring a pedicure. This shoe doesn’t have to be fancy. We’ve had enough of unprecedented times, surely. Normality is looking much more aspirational right now.
Model: Kit at Body London. Hair and makeup: Carol Morley at Carol Hayes Management using Sculpted by Amy. Heels: LK Bennett. Shirt: Reiss. Leather blazer: Whistles. Combat trousers: H&M