It's been revealed this week that there are still loads of sexist employers who force their female employees to wear heels (and make-up, and dye their hair, etc) in the office. I'm all for women wearing heels if that's their choice, but personally, I can't stand the things on my own feet.
Luckily, MPs are outlawing such outrageous heel-forcing behaviour, but this still seemed like a good time to make a stand (!) in flat shoes, and explain why I, a person, have chosen never to wear heels ever ever again, like, ever. And ESPECIALLY not because some bloke tells me to because it'll make him more money.
Here I talk you through the reasons why I've said hasta la vista to heels, as well as listing my five favourite-ever pairs of flats...
Once upon a time, before the kids ruined, ahem, enhanced my life, I worked for more! magazine (RIP Position of the Week), and one night we threw a big party. As it was such a glamorous occasion (you couldn’t move for the cast of Hollyoaks, Big Brother housemates, or people called Michelle), I decided to wear my brand new hot pink Miu Miu high heels.
These fabulous shoes were works of art, with their fuchsia curves and gold ankle straps. However, like most works of art, they weren’t very comfortable to walk in. Scrap that; they completely KILLED my feet.
And so, as with nearly every event I’ve ever attended wearing heels, after about 15 minutes of posing and 15 minutes of whinging about my sore feet, I changed into the flats I’d brought. I stowed the Miu Mius under a table and carried on partying.
A few hours and wines later it was time to leave. I went to collect my pink heels. But when I looked under the table they had gone.
I searched the club and asked everyone if they had seen my shoes, but it quickly became apparent they’d been stolen. I was gutted.
But after a few days of sorrow I realised that although the shoes had indeed been the most delicious shade of pink, with the sexiest of curves and the goldest of straps, the very fact that they’d been under the table (or in the robber’s bag) for most of the party was proof that THEY WERE NOT GOOD SHOES.
And the same has gone for all heels I’ve ever worn, no matter how colourful or pretty or cool. If I can hardly stand - let alone walk - in them, they’re not fit for purpose. And yet, over the years I persisted, buying heels of varying heights, none of which I felt remotely comfortable in. I limped over cobbles in Prada kitten heels, wobbled around weddings on vertiginous Louboutins, and stashed my Marc Jacobs in dark corners of clubs, relishing the moment when I could slip on my flats and start dancing.
Then, a year or so ago, Stylist magazine unleashed a video with male staff unhappily wearing heels, highlighting how ridiculous it was to force women to wear them in the work place. The men in the video looked so encumbered, so uncomfortable, so EXACTLY how I’ve always felt in heels, that I decided then and there that from that day forth I would exercise my right not to wear such a back-flip-unfriendly shoe EVER AGAIN. If it’s uncomfortable and ridiculous for a man to wear heels, how unsurprising that I felt the same, being similarly human and in possession of a similar pair of feet.
My decision to ditch the heels was made way easier because I’ve been lucky enough to wear so many amazing flat shoes in my life, so I knew that no more heels certainly didn’t = no more amazingness. Here’s a rundown of the 5 pairs of flats that have meant the most to me in my life so far…
Pair no. 1: The Blue Suede Tuckerboots (aged 7)
In 1985, the dentist declared that one of my teeth must be pulled out. I was distraught, and hid in the bathroom, refusing to let such a barbaric thing take place. My mum was with me.
“If you let the dentist pull your tooth out, I’ll buy you anything you like,” she said. I wiped my eyes and scrutinized her face; she was serious.
“A-anything at all?” I sniffed. I knew instantly what I wanted, but in my mind, there was ‘anything at all’, and there was my heart’s desire.
“Yes. Anything,” said my mum, who I now know to be the smartest woman in the world.
“Even…” I hesitated; this couldn’t be happening, “…even those…blue suede tuckerboots?”
“Yes,” said my mother soberly, with an admirable lack of knowing smirk on her face. “Even those.”
And so of course my tooth was pulled out and the long-coveted fashionable boots were mine. I loved them, even though they stained my socks blue every time it rained.
Pair no. 2: The Doc Martins (aged 14)
I was deeply uncool at school. Part of my problem was that, aged 12, I played Fanny in the school’s production of Smike the Musical. And another part of my problem was that the school didn’t have uniform. At this point I’d like to beg all parents not to inflict such schooling upon their daughters; it was less of an education and more of a daily catwalk among the blackboards. Because when it came to clothes, I didn’t have enough money, knowledge, time (too much geekery and gymmastics) or indeed interest, to compete with the outfits paraded by my school’s Mean Girls (the power of a teenage girl bully should never be underestimated). And so, obviously, they were mean to me.
Until I discovered eight-hole Doc Martins with purple laces, and, with them, a group of grungey friends who gave less of a fuck about bras, boys and bitchiness and more of a fuck about books, bike rides and being my BFFs.
Pair no. 3: The Parkour Trainers (aged 27)
When the Pink House Husband was just the Rented Flat Boyfriend, he decided to bugger off to Africa for five months to ‘change the world’. To keep myself out of trouble, I knew I had to get stuck into something in his absence.
I’d seen two documentaries on Channel 4 called Jump London and Jump Britain about a thing called ‘parkour’, where blokes jumped and somersaulted around buildings for fun. As a former gymnast, I watched and thought. “I can do that!” And so the next Sunday I went down to the Southbank where the boys trained.
Soon, I was hooked – me and my teenage ‘krew’ trained every weekend – and, due to my being one of the few girls (and definitely the only woman in her late twenties), I had soon picked up a sponsor (Saatchi’s ad agency), and the paid stunt work started coming in. As did a boxfresh pair of Adidas trainers, specifically designed for parkour. They were super-comfy and well cushioned, which took the sting out of the concrete landings. And, for my year of being a professional ‘traceur’, they made me look – and feel – the part in London’s concrete jungle.
Pair no. 4: The Green Chloe Boots (aged 30)
The love I had – and still have – for these emerald green studded boots can’t be overstated. This style of boot – now known as the Chloe Susannah, but then simply called Susan – is still going strong, with Office having brought out the most recent (and best) high street copy. However, while Chloe has reissued the boots since their 2008 debut, my green version only came out that first time. I have never seen anyone, either online or in real life, wearing the green Chloe Susans – literally the only picture of them (apart from the ones taken of my own boots) is this one, from the original Chloe campaign.
I bought my boots in the sale from the Start boutique in Shoreditch, which is sadly no more. Although they were reduced from around £700 to around £400 (the Chloe Susannahs now sell for more than £800), it was still by far the most I’d ever paid for a pair of shoes or boots. But these aren’t any ordinary boots – I still can’t wear them out without at least one person stopping me to compliment them. When they were new, and Kate Bosworth and Sienna Miller were skipping round the streets of LA in the red version, it wasn’t unusual for up to 10 people a day to ask me where I got them. These are magic boots – I can wear them with any outfit for instant wow factor. Who needs high heels, huh?!
Pair no. 5: The Zadig & Voltaire Sparklers (aged 38)
Now things are hotting up at The Pink House (amazing what winning an award will do for your diary), I recently decided to update my wardrobe. I needed clothes suitable for speaking on design panels, attending press events and networking lunches and meeting with clients. Trying to be practical, I went to Whistles and picked up a couple of well-fitting if unexciting LBDs. A pair of Zara trousers and John Lewis tights later and I had reached my final shopping destination: Zadig & Voltaire, my favourite shop.
Luckily, the cream silk-and-lace blouse I’d been lusting after for weeks was still there. As I headed to the changing room something shiny stopped me in my tracks: a fabulous pair of studded blue suede (yup; my life’s come full circle) flat ankle boots with gold snakeskin toes that took my breath away. I tried them on and they fitted perfectly. I walked up and down the shop: comfy too. But there was one huge problem: I had already spent my monthly clothes budget (and a bit more, but don’t tell Pink House Husband), so there was no way a £*cough* pair of boots, however beautiful, could be purchased.
Or could they? I had an idea.
I bought the boots and shirt on the spot, then walked back up the road to Whistles, where I promptly returned the practical-but-boring black dresses. “You’d get so much more use out of these dresses,” sniffed the unimpressed shop assistant, with a disdainful glance at the boots I was showing him.
I disagreed: practicality isn’t the only thing that matters; heart-stopping fuck-off fabulousness is just as important. And I don’t need high heels to have that in my life.