IT feels like someone hit the rewind button…
The red carpet at this year's Cannes film festival had barely been rolled out when it became clear that there are Hollywood people who don't understand or simply ignore French rules: Jennifer Lawrence wore black flip-flops with her red Dior haute couture dress.
Immediately, the internet was flooded with photos of the time Kristen Stewart ran up those same red-carpeted steps with a pair of super-high Louboutins in her hand. Before her, Julia Roberts ascended them in an elegant black gown and as barefoot as the day she was born.
The women's revolution threatening to erupt at the Palais des Festivals is about the prescriptive dress code for the red carpet. The discontent starting showing with the “Heelgate" scandal in 2015, when women in flat heels were turned away at the door.
Still, the rules at Cannes remain unchanged: heels and evening dresses for women, evening wear and brogues for men.
Folks, it's a French party. What do you not understand?
The drag queen of the French court
Women can't wait to kick off their heels and now it seems men can't wait to jump into theirs when they parade on the red carpet. Which gives the age-old question — who wears the pants and who wears the heels — a new twist.Ornot.
Heels were first worn by men to emphasise their masculinity. In 10th century Persia, soldiers wore them to ensure their boots did not slip from the stirrups. Much impressed and full of admiration for the military regalia of the Asians, the Europeans enthusiastically adopted the custom.
The biggest “heelfluencer" was the drag queen of the French court, Louis XIV, who ordered noblemen to wear high heels the better to show off their calf muscles under white stockings. He also insisted on red heels for the nobility to emphasise their status.
Later, when women's heels became too heavy, too high and too narrow, men stopped wearing heels for fear of being seen as feminine.
Today, the heel debate is about much more than who's the boss and who's not, and you need a doctorate to understand it. One group says heels are patriarchal, authoritarian and oppressive, while the other insists they're liberating. But in the end, after questioning myself, working through everything and missing my deadline, my answer to myself was: The shoe doesn't wear you, you wear the shoe.
High heels for men are once again everywhere on the catwalks. Gucci, Versace, Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga, to name a few, include high heels in their clothing lines. And they're not cowboy boots, they're super-high sexy platform heels. (Good news for Vladimir Putin and Tom Cruise.)
But the great seducer, the one everyone gossips about, that causes calluses and blisters, destroys wooden floors and lawns, the one feminists discard at welfare shops and others use for pole dancing, the shoe some desire and others fantasise about, which transcends fashion trends and towers over all, is the stiletto. It's called spykerhakke in Afrikaans, a word probably coined by a staid and study-ridden grammarian whose polished parquet floors were ruined by hefty visiting tannies.
That stiletto knows how to show off her assets, that's for sure. In the shoe fetish and porn world, it enjoys even higher status than underwear. At Playboy and Penthouse, naked means bare-assed with high heels. Strippers have known this for a long time: size matters and the higher the heel, the bigger the tip. Just look at pin-up posters: who's the dominatrix? Not the wedge heel.
Women and men who wear them look taller and thinner, and even if you move more slowly you look more elegant than with flat heels.
That's why fabulous feminists like Oprah, JK Rowling, Holland Taylor, Sarah Paulson and Marc Jacobs show up in high heels on the red carpet.
Victoria Beckham even wears a T-shirt that says: “I can't concentrate in flats." (And she paid for it with bunion surgery.)
For the rest of us who don't hang out on red carpets, the heel trend today is low block, platform, wedge and kitten heels (a short stiletto). It's much more comfortable and never much higher than 70mm.
Even though I wear Birkenstocks these days, there are four pairs of shoes in my closet that I'm not ready to take to Secondhand Rose; I just paid too much for them. I could have retired a long time ago if I had saved the money I spent on Prada shoes. No one understands shoes like Miuccia Prada. Each pair she designs is an artefact that would be at home in a museum.
All my life I have been preparing for the day our house is endangered by a mountain fire, and how I will first grab the photo albums and then the other irreplaceable heirlooms.
When it really happened and we had to evacuate quickly, I stood in front of my open closet. I couldn't see anything but the blue and white two-tone toes, the faux crocodile and leopard skin, and the little faces of my pink patent leather kitten heels sitting in a row on the shoe rack looking at me.
All I ran outside with was them.
I promised myself that night never to tell anyone.
♦ VWB ♦
TAKE PART IN THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to comment on this article. We would love to hear from you.