Debunking the Theory That Kitten Heels Are a Sign of Economic Uncertainty

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Marc Jacobs, fall 2010. Photo: Imaxtree

In lusher economic times, the standard runway heel seemed to tower at six inches. Designers had no trouble producing them for the masses at those absurd heights either, and we saw six-, seven-, even eight-inch pairs flood shelves. Footwear had become dangerous for professional models, but that didn't stop designers from rolling out nine-, ten-, even twelve-inch pairs. But what goes up must come down, and so it was with footwear for the fall 2010 season. Marc Jacobs put his girls in refreshing flats and kitten heels. Michelle Obama has always worn kitten heels, a practical choice for a working mom who has to do a lot of standing and doesn't want to feel awkward in her shoes. Karl Lagerfeld continued the trend, showing kitten heels and even bare feet — the ultimate in low-heel extremism — in his recent Chanel resort show.

With any new and startling trend must obviously come a deeper cultural meaning. The Wall Street Journal wonders if this has something to do with the economy, which, according to many news outlets these days, can explain everything in fashion and life:

Now, amid considerable economic uncertainty, lower-heeled styles—particularly tapered "kitten" heels—are back with a vengeance... That leads some to speculate whether there's a relationship between a sinking heel and the stock market. Gary Loveman, CEO of Harrah's Entertainment Inc., was reported saying earlier this year that he likes seeing women wearing stilettos in his casinos because he believes it means guests are more likely to spend more.


But Jeffrey Hirsch, editor of the Stock Trader's Almanac, noted that these kinds of theories have "not so much" validity anymore. Oh? Then ooh! Ooh! We have a theory! Maybe women are tired of the muscles in their feet aching, their bunions growing bunions, their toenails turning in on themselves, blisters leaving bruiselike scars. Maybe fashion finally heard the cry that, you know what? Our feet were made for walking and they freaking hurt. That's our scientific theory for you.

Stilettos—So Two Years Ago [WSJ]