Thursday, February 5, 2015

Comfortable high heels in six easy steps

  1. Whoever said you had to suffer to be beautiful had not discovered Sargossa. We put this label in the Measure back in July, when we discovered it; I wore my Momentum sandals all summer. The Sargossa label is based on a patent-pending, super-comfortable sole with medical-grade padding. It works. They are not cheap (about £160-£200) but they are worth it.
Marks and Spencer shoe
Marks and Spencer suede boot, £59 Photograph: PR
2. On the subject of money: cheap high heels rarely work. High-street labels that are aimed at 17-year-olds have very pretty shoes, yes. But don’t come crying to me when your feet are in shreds. I suspect 17-year-olds have higher pain thresholds, possibly connected to their higher tolerance for alcohol. Marks & Spencer’s shoe department, on the other hand, can be an unexpected treasure trove: I love this suede boot.
Carvella shoe
Carvella sandal, £120 Photograph: PR
3. Which brings us to boots and ankle support. The traditional, open-front court shoe is the least comfortable kind of shoe you can wear, as your foot has to grip on to the sole. Anything that holds your foot across the front will be more comfortable (see my picks in points one and two). A shoe such as this Carvela cage-front sandal will be much more comfortable than a more bare shoe. The lace-up-front high heel is much-worn by high-heel pros (see: super-stylist and front row star Sophia Neophitou), as it looks fancy and hot but is surprisingly comfortable.
4. The cobbler is your friend. Get your heel tips replaced frequently and your shoes resoled when they wear out. Buy leather insoles for added comfort. Shoe comfort depends on engineering, and engineering requires maintenance.
5. Be ruthless about editing your choice, and only consider heel heights you can actually manage. 100mm is a standard height for many labels – but most women can only actually manage 70mm. If you have two pairs of 100mm heels and you seldom wear them, do NOT buy any more: look for 50-70mm. They are surprisingly hard to find, but worth seeking out.
Cocorose shoe, £85 Photograph: PR
6. Last resort: when I go out to a fancy fashion party, I wear high heels and carry a tiny clutch bag but I bend one Cocorose foldable ballet slipper in each of my coat pockets

Thursday, January 8, 2015

It’s confirmed – men are mesmerised by high heels. Except me, that is

British actor Rosamund Pike arrives at the Bafta awards ceremony in high heels
Rosamund Pike in high heels. 'I live in hope that one day we will view high heels with the same horror with which we view foot-binding.' Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters
After well over half a lifetime studying, contemplating and documenting the vagaries of human behaviour and psychology, I must issue a confession. There is one significant trait of my fellow earthlings which leaves me utterly baffled and stumped. I am talking about shoes.
I first became fully aware of women’s relationship with footwear while still in my teens. An attractive young woman with whom I was nurturing a friendship casually remarked that she could never go out with me because I wore bad shoes. She said it with such certainty that it was clear she considered this not a temporary lapse in my fashion sense, but a profound and permanent character flaw. She could happily overlook my big wonky ears, ginger hair, freckles and lisp, but my scruffy supermarket pumps were the deal-breaker.
Many years later, one of my dearest friends was grumbling about the blisters and bruises being caused by her latest proud purchase. I muttered something about taking more care when trying things on in the shop and she looked at me as if I had started speaking fluent Martian. “I’d never not buy a nice pair of shoes just because they didn’t fit!” she exclaimed, then we sat gawping at each other while silent mutual incomprehension calcified the air.
I had thought men’s relationship with footwear was more simple. Yes, some men collect trainers the way I collect music and others collect stamps, but we really don’t care that much what women wear on their feet, do we? Or so I thought until this month, when academia came along to shatter my complacency. It turns out that the typical man does indeed care about women’s shoes and, surprise, surprise, it is high heels that press his buttons.
A study in the new issue of the Archives of Sexual Behaviour reveals that a woman who stands in the street and asks passing men for help in filling out a survey, or who “accidentally” drops a glove will get more positive responses if she is wearing heels than flats. She’ll also attract more attention when sitting in a bar. The author Nicolas Guéguen said that a woman’s heel size “exerts a powerful effect on men’s behaviour”. He was unsure why this should be happening, but suggested that the over-association of high heels with women’s sexiness and could lead men to misinterpret the sexual intent of women with high heels.
It is hard to argue with this. Even the most committed evolutionary psychologist would struggle to claim that our ancestors on the savanna enjoyed an evolutionary advantage if they propped up their arches on a couple of twigs while sabre-toothed tigers were on the prowl. As tactical mating strategies go, that one would be pretty stupid.
Further light is shone on the issue by the latest edition of Podiatry Now (I have the best bedtime reading). Given the damage that can be done to women’s feet by high-heeled shoes, podiatrists have an obvious interest in this matter.
Into the fray steps Dr Chris Morriss-Roberts, Britain’s leading expert in podolinguistics (quite possibly Britain’s only expert in podolinguistics, but credit where it’s due). He heard of a case of a 90-year-old woman with extensive feet problems caused by her footwear, who admitted that she wore high heels to look attractive to her husband. When asked, he admitted that he’d always hated the bloody things. I paraphrase, but not much. This set Morriss-Roberts off on a quest to find out what heterosexual men really think about women’s shoes. I read the paper eagerly anticipating the twist – surely it would transpire that after all these years of bunions and claw-toe, men really don’t care what women have on their feet?
It turned out that few men agree with the elderly husband (and me) and most are helpless suckers for a high heel and a strap. They reported being excited by the assertive brand of femininity they imply. As one research participant put it: “I sense authority behind that … what’s going on for me with high heels is a sense of politics, behind that there is an element of vulnerability, and a sense that the foot is being controlled by the shoe.”
Let us not forget that a stiletto is a weapon designed to slide through the ribs and stab the heart.
For what it is worth (ie nothing), personally I’m more attracted to a woman who looks like she can drink me under the table then carry me home, making a sturdy pair of DMs just the ticket. I live in hope that one day the human race will view high heels with the same horror with which we view foot-binding. Women would be spared innumerable podiatric agonies and men would, I think, just about cope. Until then I shall content myself with the knowledge that I’m right and the rest of the human race is a bit daft. And these supermarket pumps? They’re actually very comfortable you know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meet the models breaking the mould

Daphne Self
Daphne Selfe: 'Everyone can look lovely.' Photograph: Nick Ballon
The older model: Daphne Selfe

Do models eat biscuits? Daphne Selfe does. "And cake," she says – "Are you sure you won't have a sandwich?" – before we sit down in the living room of her Hertfordshire home.
You may recognise Selfe from the fashion pages of the Guardian, or from Vogue, advertising campaigns and style magazines such as Dazed & Confused. She has been shot by Mario Testino, Rankin and Nick Knight. She is 83, and last year appeared more in demand than ever.
Her long silver hair has become her trademark, though today it's pinned back. "I think it's fine for a woman of my age to have long hair," she says, "but I think we should wear it up." She's happy to talk and talk, so I let her get on with it while I study her face. Her cheekbones are sharp, her blue eyes shine and her skin looks lived-in and luminous. Her secret? "I have an Irish family behind me, which is good for looks," she says with a smile. "But everyone can look lovely. It's what's in your head that counts – your outlook."
As a young woman, Selfe wanted to work with horses and helped run a riding school. Then she moved to Reading and got a job in a department store. When a local photographer organised a modelling competition, the shop girls applied and Selfe won. After that, she trained with an agency – "We were taught how to walk, how to do hair and make-up, because in those days you had to do all that yourself. It's not like now, when you have all these people to transform you."
Around the same time, she met her future husband, Jim. Soon after, they were married with three children, and Selfe gave up modelling. Did she miss it? "No! With three children? That was what you did. You expected to give up work when you got married."
In the 60s, Selfe considered going back to modelling and approached a few agencies. "No way," she says, with a dramatic eye roll. "They didn't like the look of me. It was people like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. I just didn't fit." Was it a terrible rejection? "No! As a model you have to learn to be rejected. I know if I do five auditions, I might get one. And if I don't, so what?"
Not until 1998, aged 70, did Selfe – by then a widow – get her big break. The label Red Or Dead was looking for older models for its London fashion week show and Selfe, who had stayed registered with an agent, was cast. The stylist suggested she contact Vogue, which was working on an issue celebrating age. At the shoot, she met a scout for Models 1. "And I haven't looked back."
The fashion world has changed since she first became a model. Then she was a size 12 – "A strapping girl" – but now the standard size is a six or eight. "That's much too thin. If you're very tall, you've got to have some flesh on you. I don't think being too thin is awfully pretty."
She has undoubtedly stood up for diversity in a world that venerates youth. "People now get to 40 and think, 'Oh my God', but so what? Everybody has to get old."
We are not used to seeing older people presented in a sexy way – and Selfe has done some sexy shoots. She nods. "I don't mind. I used to be an artists' model. What upsets me is the way older people don't bother any more. I never go out without make-up. I do my hair."
She would never have cosmetic surgery. "Or Botox. I think it's a shame. Somebody I know went to America and they said, 'All these people with these fabulous faces, then you see them on the beach and they've got wrinkly bodies.' Why?" Selfe puts her good skin down to her genes, exercise, good diet and skincare. Does she mourn her youthful beauty? She shakes her head. "Age just makes you a bit slower." She thinks for a while and then smiles. "I can't wear high heels now, but I'm not bothered."
What makes a good model, and whom do you admire?
Bone structure, attitude – and a good agent. You've got to be very adaptable. I like Gisele Bündchen.

What have you eaten today?
Every morning I put carrot, celery, apple and ginger in my juicer, and I make my own muesli. I'll have a proper lunch – chicken or salmon with rice and lots of vegetables. I don't eat as much red meat as I used to. I'll have a piece of cake at tea, then soup for supper. I drink a lot of water, but I barely drink alcohol now. I might have a quarter of a glass of wine at dinner.

What was your worst job?
An ad I did for Bupa – I was photographed in a swimming pool with no heating.

Would you recommend modelling as a career to your granddaughter?
Yes. It's fine as long as you know what you're letting yourself in for, are strong-minded and take it with a pinch of salt. Some people [in the fashion industry] can be very rude.

Who is your favourite designer?
Etro – it's bohemian but wearable. I like unusual clothes. I don't like to go out looking frumpy.