x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

To those on their high-(heeled) horse...

In a season where super high heels reign supreme in fashion isn't it funny that everyone is wearing flats?

In a season where super high heels reign supreme in fashion isn't it funny that everyone is wearing flats? When you look around the streets from LA to Moscow, women are either strapped into the flattest sandals since Roman times or wearing moccasins, brogues or ballet pumps. It's not necessarily because we ladies love flats but because most of us have to walk more than four paces. "I can walk in flat shoes," says Naomi Campbell in the May issue of American Vogue as a woman who only flies by private plane and rides in chauffeured limos can. "But I'm better in heels." Yes, Naomi, but we all saw you fall off your Vivienne Westwood wedges on the catwalk, remember?

There is still a terrific one-upmanship between women when it comes to high heels which accessories brands (run mostly by men) take full advantage of. Heels say what, exactly? I don't have to work? Or: I am more glamorous than you are? Whatever it is, it certainly isn't: I am rich. There are currently hundreds of cheap versions of teetering heels and whopping platforms around and still, everyone is wearing flats.

Twas ever thus. I have seen a Japanese version of super heels dating back a thousand years in Ueno, in Tokyo. Wearing high heels has long been regarded as a feminine trait and a signifier of social class. I'll bet the reason the highest of heels survive, rather than the billions of flats worn by the same ladies, is because the everyday ones have fallen apart. Around half of the shoes in my hoard are high heels, mostly in pristine condition. One of my favourite pairs are Prada wedges so high I've only ever dared wear them once. In comparison, my flats - bless them - are well-worn, verging on shabby and, I fear, less-loved.

Two nights ago at a party surrounded by well-dressed women and rock royalty including Iron Maiden, I lent a shoulder to a woman whose staggeringly high Dior heel had snapped. She had bought them that morning for Dh2,700. I told her the story of my Prada-mad friend who returned a pair of shoes, one with a broken heel, to a store in Milan, and was asked by the sales girl what on earth she had been doing in them.

When she innocently replied, "walking", everyone in the shop echoed her in horror. Walking indeed! High heels look great but, realistically, are of little practical use. I can say this having spent the week trying out several pairs whilst viewing autumn/winter collections at showrooms dotted across town. By lunchtime of the first day I spied small piles of unfeasibly high heels - by Charlotte Olympia, Sergio Rossi, Sophie Gittens or whoever - discarded by their wearers (me included), who sat on sofas rubbing sore feet and complaining.

At one appointment I learnt about a British label called Pump and Circumstance (www.pumpandcircumstance.com) who have been making Sloane Ranger-type ballerinas for ages. This summer, they're trying out a new construction, the sacchetto, used in traditional moccasins, where the lining is sewn to the upper to form a sack and there is no hard insole, only padding on the ball of the foot and heel. Although the sacchetto ballerina idea isn't exactly revolutionary (several big brands like Dior, Roger Vivier and Dolce & Gabbana already use it), the British version costs a fraction of the others.

I'm glancing at the navy and white pair which have only left my feet to shower and sleep in the past six days. I've even been to a Lindy Hop in them. Although not quite Lanvin, the last time I wore anything as comfortable was when I worked in a chemist shop on a Saturday as a young teenager and had to wear a pair of wooden sole Dr Scholl's.Imagine my surprise at my very last appointment when I spied a high heeled boot (a bit clumpy biker-style) with the label Dr Scholl stitched inside.

Could this really be the first ever comfortable high heel? Unfortunately, only one half of the pair was avialable to try on, so we shall have to wait until September to find out. artslife@thenational.ae