It was just a few years ago when the sale of high heels took a catastrophic tumble as we hunkered down our homes, and slippers, sneakers, Birkenstocks and Crocs (these still enjoying heady times) became de rigueur. But, after teetering on the verge of extinction, there’s a new dawn in the marketplace for, particularly, but not limited to, sky-high dress shoes.
Fanciers of the elevated footwear are both rediscovering their back-of-closet stilettos, pumps and wedges and eagerly seeking out and purchasing eye-catching new styles.
So says Beth Goldstein, the industry analyst for accessories and footwear at the NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research company. “Clearly we’ve seen an appetite for newness with sales of high heels in the first half of the year up 50% versus last year. And within the dress shoe space sales of higher heels are outpacing lower heels.”
A 'MORE POSITIVE' VIBE
The increased market share, “signals a much more positive, celebratory attitude, more driven by social occasions than going back to work,” where the environment remains more casual, says Goldstein. For now, sales are being driven, by “the fun party shoe. It’s fresh and what gets consumers excited.”
Enthusiasm, naturally, is at rampant among top tier fashion types such as Cassie Anderson, fashion director of Cosmopolitan.
“Like many, I spent a lot of time in sneakers over the last couple of years,” she says. “It felt like a coronation when I finally had event worth opening my shoe closet. In fashion, the pendulum constantly swings back and forth, and we all went from ballet flats, sneakers and slides to the most nonfunctional, editorial-worthy heels some of us have ever seen. Frankly, I’m here for the show.”
And shoe mogul and Long Islander Steve Madden says, “The high heel is alive and well. The newest thing is the big platform. That’s what’s selling and it’s great.”
Of note is the return of the platform Mary Jane, these almost sci-fi jobs, star in almost every lineup from designer to mass merchandisers. The platform itself, a throwback to the disco era of the '70s and '90s redux too, often features sturdy (well, sturdier as compared to a stiletto) block heels and a beefy platform, which lessens the pitch or angle of the heel. It purports to make walking in the shoes less hazardous and more comfortable.
At Bloomingdale’s, they even do the math for you in product descriptions. For example, a 5.6-inch block heel with a 2.17-inch platform feels like a 3.43-inch heel. Though that’s much better, many suggest that the shoes are meant only to go from car, to party, to seat.
HOW THEY MAKE YOU FEEL
Far from the comfiest thing you ever put on your feet, there are some advantages to wearing a high heel say many.
“I am more confident in a heel,” explains Cosmopolitan’s Anderson. “It elongates the body and lifts your tush. They’re empowering to wear whether for a night out or back to work.”
The plus for Karen Sharf, 60, a real estate broker from Old Brookville, is “Obvious. I’m little,” she says (she's 5 feet tall). And beyond gaining a few inches, she explains, “I think you look more polished, finished, sexy and glamorous in a heel. Yesterday, I had a meeting that I wanted to look more professional for, so I stepped it up.”
To date, Sharf hasn’t bought new kicks this season. Instead she says, “I’ve dusted off the ones that have been hiding.”
However, she has been coveting some current high-end brands like Jimmy Choo and Valentino, “hoping they’ll go on sale.”
Some, such as Aliya Holmes, 49, an associate professor at St. John’s University from Brentwood, didn’t wait for the sale. “I brought three pairs of shoes this week,” she says sounding a little guilty. She adds that she’s been enticed by new styles, and has wondered, “what was I thinking?,” when she looks at her shoe purchases from two years ago.
Holmes is a fan of the leg-lengthening prowess of the higher heel (4 inches is her max) and believes “they give you a sense of power.”
Delighted by their resurgence, she says, “We have a lot of living to do, and they’re kind of a celebration.”
Walk this way: Miss J tells us how
How to prep for high heels after years of not wearing them? Television personality and legendary runway coach J. Alexander (known as Miss J) says emphatically, “Since the drought of heels, no one is ready to wear them except Barbie. She’s always heel-ready.” Here are a few of his tips:
- “Our bodies have gotten used to a sitting position. Start small with a training heel — like 2 1/2 to 3 inches.”
- When practicing walking, opt for hard surfaces like wood flooring or marble rather that carpet. “It is not the same feeling and I urge all my brides to do this before their wedding,” says Alexander. “It’s a foreign object on your foot, I tell models to try to walk around backstage during the time they get their hair and makeup.”
- Warning: Alexander says that as a starter heel, “avoid a ‘yike’ — this is what I call a very thin, high heel, like a Louboutin. I always say a 6-inch heel with a platform gives you some balance and you’ll feel more mentally secure before you get back into the swing of things.”
- Fit: “It’s very important. Do not buy a half size too big and think it’s going to be comfortable. It’s going to be real sloppy and your feet move forward when you walk anyway,” he says.
- Posture: “Of course it’s important,” he explains. “After all this time wearing flip-flops, your body has gotten used to a comfortable position so when you walk, remember not to put your shoulders up to your ears like a no-neck monster. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”
- How to move: Alexander says you don’t have to arch your back or take huge strides like models. “You’re not on catwalk,” he says adding that smaller steps are just fine. “Sometimes it’s a mental thing getting from point A to point B in a very high heel. Grab a handrail, take your time.”