This month we at the Stiletto Gang are celebrating the return of our (new and improved) red stiletto shoe by sharing our thoughts and feelings about shoes, stilettos, and what it's been like to be part of this particular gang.
I have never been a high-heels girl. I own a few pairs, but prefer the widest, steadiest heel I can get. A thick heeled boot was my go-to during my clubbing days, and for fancy occasions, I aimed for something in a kitten heel or spool heel, something that felt a little more stable. When wedges were in, I was very pleased (even if I thought they were kinda ugly).
I mostly wear high heels for weddings or other times when it is imperative that my footwear look appropriate. Inevitably, this means that as soon as the dancing gets going, my shoes will find their way to a corner or be shoved under a chair--I never have managed to master the art of dancing in heels. In fact, my favorite thing about high heels is how they give me an excuse to take them off, giving me the freedom to dance barefoot (but still on my toes).
It is well known that even the world's most comfortable high heels will, eventually, hurt the feet they encase. There are countless studies that suggest that regularly wearing them are bad for your feet, but that wearing them can make you appear more attractive, more feminine, and be more persuasive. In the cost-benefit analysis, women often decide that wearing them is better than not wearing them. They have held an allure for women since they were girls trying to fit their feet into their mother's shoes, and no make-over movie montage is ever complete without the requite "learn to walk in heels" scene, which some of lived out in our own, non-movie lives.
But if wearing your first pair of heels is a right of passage for girls and femmes, that right of passage isn't complete until that same person has kicked said shoes off. If all pleasure is derived from the relief of tension, then the feeling of finally launching a pair of particularly painful heels across the room is indeed ecstasy.
I will never relate to anything more than when Emma Thompson, one of my favorite actresses of all time, took her high heels off at the 2014 Golden Globes. She then threw them over her shoulder and presented an award barefooted. In fact, many actresses have started pushing back against the expectation that women HAVE to wear shoes. Kirsten Stewart famously took her own heels off at the 2018 Cannes Festival despite strict dress guidelines.
If the high heel is the symbol of the Femme Fatale, taking that same high heel off is the symbol of the Every Woman. It is the woman who has completed a day of work, made it through a long event, or decided that even if the event isn't done, her feet are. Her toes now have room to stretch and wiggle, and the ball of her feet can share her weight more evenly with her heel. The high-heel kick off is one of life's great joys.
What I love about being part of The Stiletto Gang is that I don't have to be a high-heels girl to fit in. This particular group is very inclusive, encompassing a wide variety of writers, making space for different styles and even genres. This group is filled with my kind of women--women who are bold enough to put themselves out there, and make their voices heard. They are the anti-Cannes Festival, letting participants show up in whatever footwear suits them. And I am very proud to be part of this gang.
***J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels and the short stories, and . She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free time binge-watching quality TV, drinking cider with amazing friends, and learning the art of radical self-acceptance, one day at a time.