Rosie Dawson-Hewes: Heels are alive... with men

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

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Women have long known of the power a beautiful pair of big heels can bestow.
Women have long known of the power a beautiful pair of big heels can bestow.

I've always loved shoes. Like many, as a child I used to sneak into my mother's wardrobe and try on her high heels. There was one pair in particular I loved - a typically 80s open-toe pair of mid-heels that were a patchwork of different coloured leathers. I remember feeling how soft the leather was, running my fingers over the stitching that connected the blue to yellow, orange and green sections.

That was really the beginning of the end.

I (foolishly) spent my first years at uni gleefully running out at the beginning of each year to spend my course-related costs on shoes. It was easy enough to justify - I couldn't exactly go barefoot to class in the middle of winter in Wellington, could I?

I started out in flats, then graduated to kitten heels (which I now despise, but that's a whole other column), before moving on to mid-heels when I started office work then finally ending up where I am now where a large portion of my shoe wardrobe consists of at least 10cm heels.

I subscribe to the Posh Spice School of Heels - as long as you can walk in them without looking like a demented duck, the higher the better.

Like many other women, I find my high heels empowering. I'm still not sure what it is but there's something magical about the transformative power of a great pair of heels.

The right heels make me feel more powerful, bolder and more bad-ass. It's like their ability to straighten my terrible hunched posture and tone my calf muscles somehow brings out the confidence I've always had but that sometimes disappears under the strain of everyday life. In my heels I walk taller, literally and figuratively.

Obviously this is nothing new. Beyonce often uses high heels as a way of describing an empowered modern woman in control of both her life and her finances. Bette Midler was once asked in an interview whether she has a passion for shoes. "I firmly believe that with the right footwear one can rule the world. Fortunately for the world, I have not found the correct footwear to achieve that goal. However, shoe stores across the nation can attest to my sincere and persistent efforts in that direction," she replied.

For years women have felt and used the power of high heels. But now an Australian shoe company is asking why that opportunity should be limited to only women, and have launched a collection of high heels for men. This month Solestruck launched Syro, a brand aiming to break "the oppression of male femininity [that] still continues to shame, exile and attack the freedom of self-expression". It's built on a community of men who want to embrace their feminine side without judgment, men who contacted Solestruck time and again asking for high heels in their sizes.

I think this is an absolutely awesome move and one bound to pay off for Solestruck, not just within the queer community.

Many great men have embraced high heels over the years - David Bowie and Prince spring to mind. I've said it before and I'll say it again - fashion is a fluid form of self-expression, one that should not be limited to gender or stereotypes or any other expectation society puts on us.

Fashion is freedom, to be whoever you want and say whatever you want through what you wear. For me, my heels are a key part of that freedom and expression. I love seeing others, regardless of gender, experience the same joy I get from a great pair of shoes.

If women can wear the pants and men can wear skirts, it's only fitting that everyone have the same opportunity to feel both the pain and flawlessness that a great high heel provides. After all, my brothers fished about in my mother's wardrobe, trying on her high heels, as much as I did.

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