I love stilettos. I’m always wearing heels; it’s even in my Twitter bio. As a result, my readers rely on me to be the well-heeled defender of lazy arguments against the importance of fashion. One such lazy argument was sent to me after the World Economic Forum shared it on Twitter, and clearly I have no choice but to vehemently refute it.
The article in question asks, “Should female bosses ditch the high heels?” It spends more time, however, whining about the fact that society punishes people with poor fashion sense than making a case against stilettos.
The world is unfair, the writer claims, because those at the top (mostly men) can get away with wearing the Mark Zuckerberg uniform while those on the bottom have to dress formally. Women in particular, the article claims, are required to spend much more time on achieving a certain appearance while men can apparently roll straight from their bed into their office with no effort. As anyone can tell you, some men spend far longer on their morning routine than some women, but that’s another conversation.
Fashion Isn’t a Waste of Time
I’m used to being a fashion defender, and explaining why fashion matters. Fashion is not just a silly waste of time. Fashion is important, especially in the world of geopolitical risk, where how you dress can make or break a deal, a company dress code can spark legal action abroad, and a poorly chosen design on a t-shirt worn by a rock star at a concert in a conservative country can result in cancelled tour dates. You can sign as many petitions as you want about how unfair these things are, but I doubt your stockholders will care after they see the profit-loss statements.
A recent study found that fashion choices can have a measurable effect on the wearer. Unlike their suit-wearing counterparts, sweatpants-wearers in the study had a considerable drop in testosterone levels. In addition, the “study reveals that the simple act of wearing clothing considered to convey a high social status can increase dominance and job performance in high-stakes competitive tasks.”
Women who wear thin, flimsy flats that have them shuffling about without lifting their feet like extras who took a wrong turn from the set of “The Walking Dead” aren’t just looking ridiculous. They’re hurting their feet. They’re hurting their image. They’re hurting their chances of projecting power. And they’re hurting their level of confidence while undermining their job performance.
Before you all yell back something about heels being uncomfortable and that it’s unfair to make women suffer when men can wear comfortable shoes, let me say something. If your stilettos are uncomfortable, it’s because you don’t understand how to buy shoes, not because a deeply ingrained patriarchy demands that you sacrifice your feet on its altar every day. Besides, men have to break in dress shoes, too; those things don’t come pre-relaxed like a pair of good jeans.
Don’t Be a Whiner—Be Creative
Are far as heels being impractical: if someone brings up the “Jurassic World” example again, I’m going to start asking how often she has to run away from a T-Rex in her line of work.
The article also attacks the “frankly weird expectation that they should sport full make-up at all times,” which I find entirely weird.
What the heck is “full make-up?” If it’s Oscars-level multi-layer airbrushing, who actually does that for work every day? If it’s just some powder and mascara, how many women are so incredibly outraged by this that we need to topple the “expectation” with such furor? If you take two hours to get ready, ladies, you need to watch some hair and makeup tutorials, because you’re either really bad at simple things or absolutely overdoing it.
In either case, we’re talking about extremes, not the majority of women. Sephora is not successful because men force women to buy cosmetics; it’s successful because make-up is a way to express one’s individuality and creativity—just like fashion.
If you all want to start wearing those heinous unisex uniforms that deprive you of your individuality and creativity while further ingraining the notion that you’re a faceless cog in the machine, maybe you need to sit down and reconsider the dystopian future you’re going to inadvertently bring about. Be advised, however, that I’ll be fighting back—standing on the front line, wearing a pair of fabulous four-inch stilettos.