As we all know, high heels are the hallmark of womanhood, and bound up, Chinese feet were back in the day, with style. We learned this from Sex and the City. But as women, drag queens, and cross dressers know, precipitous pumps aren't without their dangers. Besides looking like weapons, the footwear of the female has tripped more than one woman up with a sprained ankle. Most of us know what it is to suffer burning soles and walk home barefoot from a night out, just with differing degrees of shame.
There's nothing as endlessly entertaining as someone falling over, but the sinister side of those red-soled Louboutins are their potential to trip women up in more ways than one. Some cultural theorists have suggested that besides literally slowing us down (and inducing pain), the elegant high heel is responsible for hindering women's mobility in other ways. Are we imprisoned by traditional ideas of womanhood and womanly attributes? From the time when we are toddlers playing dress up in our mother's closets, we internalize gender roles and rules. Yet a number of Hollywood actresses and top celebrities are treating high heels with the cavalier attitude of a three year old with a three second attention span. For them, heels are dress up accessories to throw on or toss out according to their mood.
Despite the pressure for women (especially women in the public eye) to be aesthetically pleasing, these fifteen women show that even celebrities can't walk in heels. Heels might give you a height advantage and elongate your legs, but it seems that you don't need to wear them to succeed, even in the world of celebrity. Oh, and there are pictures of people falling over, so scroll on MacDuff.
15 Ashley Benson: Girls who lie
Like many an actress, Ashley Benson of Pretty Little Liars maintains that she bears little relation to her on-screen character. Benson, and many actors like her, are keen to point out that their acting ability offers her agility and versatility, a little like a child trying on their mother's high heels for fun. The Pretty Little Liars star has gone as far as saying: “I feel uncomfortable when I’m in Hanna’s clothes just because I hate wearing heels, and she’s always in heels. My feet hurt!” The series explores the illicit secrets of a group of girlfriends, unravelling their shocking stories over the course of its cliffhanger-packed duration. As the title suggests, there is an inherent dishonesty in the traditional conceptions of femininity. Perhaps this has something to do with the generalization of an entire gender, and the popular myth that women are in some sense innately duplicitous.
14 Emma Stone: Not living in La La Land
Ever one to provoke with her witticisms and comedic approach to life, Emma Stone is another celeb who has come out of the Sex and the City shoe closet when it comes to typically female footwear. Despite ranking among the most dazzling of Hollywood's actresses, Stone says that she no longer even attempts to wear heels because she finds it too hard to walk: “I stopped wearing heels…you just can’t walk in them.” She's one of a slew of actresses and stars who have abandoned the tottering toe impactors in pursuit of function rather than fashion. Though she manages to dance impressively with co-star Ryan Gosling in La La Land, in her personal life, it seems that Stone just isn't willing to endure the pain of high heels to look all fancy. Instead, the bathos queen prefers to keep her feet firmly on the ground, and that's what we love her for.
13 Emma Thompson: "I'm so comfortable now"
Another Emma, Brit actress of Harry Potter and Bridget Jones' Baby fame, Emma Thompson says her young daughter is interested in wearing heels, but she can’t walk in them herself: “I can’t walk in high heels, but actually I would like her to be able to walk in heels because they look nice. And she loves them. I loved them when I was little. If I had been allowed to have high heels I would have been so happy, but no. So she has a little pair of high heels.” Accepting an award for Best Actress at the National Board of Review Awards, Thompson made her speech with no shoes on, concluding by joking: "I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really. You know, I really would like to urge everyone to stop it. Just stop it. Don’t wear them anymore. You just can’t walk in them, and I’m so comfortable now.”
12 Jennifer Lawrence: Renouncing "Satan's shoes"
She can save the world in the Hunger Games and win an Oscar, but we all know and love Jennifer Lawrence for face planting on her way onstage to accept it. A combination of her high heels and a ruffled skirt was what tripped Lawrence up it would seem. Removing them both, she remarked "Satan's shoes". What we love Lawrence for (besides her acting talent) is her in person realness, perhaps derived from her ever active sense of humor. Jennifer finds it so uncomfortable and is constantly tripping up on the red carpet: ”When I’m in high heels I feel like an ogre, I can’t walk and my feet are uncomfortable. I’m at that awkward height where I’m already kind of tall, so when I put heels on, everyone is like: ‘Oh, well, where’s the ball?’ It’s just that they make me look too dressed up and yeah, I’m terrible in heels.”
11 Kristen Wiig: New York Fashionista
You know Kristen Wiig from Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids, and Zoolander 2, among other things. A master of sending up traditional approaches to femininity, Wiig is another celeb who has renounced high heel wearing in all but her character work. Having grown up in rural New York state, the actress' sense of style has remained far from the sky scraping stilettos of the Sex and the City cast. Kristen wishes she could wear heels but says it’s just too hard for her: "I don’t really think about style. As I get older, comfort is more important. I so badly want to be that girl who shops with her girlfriends and wears heels, but I can’t do it. After one block I’d have to go buy flats." What Kristen can do is comedy, and we're voracious fans of pretty much everything she produces, so we're willing to accept that she can't walk in heels.
10 Lena Dunham: Barefoot and glamorous
It won't surprise you that Girls mastermind and Oberlin College graduate Lena Dunham isn't going to be held back by the high heel either. Known for her provocative approach to body positivity on social media and beyond, the self-proclaimed feminist was a few sentences into her acceptance speech for a 2012 Glamour Women Of The Year Award, when she paused and announced “I have to take my shoes off, you guys, I’m so sorry.” Having de-pumped, she quipped, “It was never going to go OK that way.” Dunham's onstage shoelessness is part of a larger trend for public nudity throughout her work. But maybe she was also saying something about being unconstrained as a woman. Dunham has waged war against Instagram's photoshopped faces and lifestyles by regularly posting normalizing images of her without makeup. In the wake of Alicia Keys' decision to go bare faced, it seems that it's not just Lena who is rejecting the war paint of makeup and other typically 'feminine' style choices in the public eye.
9 Cara Delevingne: Supermodel and sneakerhead
Despite topping popularity polls as a supermodel, Cara Delevingne recently made the career transition into acting. Much talk has accompanied her maneuver and position on gender fluidity and acceptance. But her recent game-change might also have something to do with shoes. Never one to waste superlatives, The top model stated “I hate high heels, more than anything.” During her modelling years, Cara has worn every sort of designer heel on the runways of Paris, Milan, London, and New York. But in an interview with Vogue UK in February 2013, she confessed “The worst part of being a model? I hate high heels, more than anything.” Indeed, off-duty Cara is rarely snapped in anything but high-top sneakers. Is Cara also setting a trend for young women in high heel evasion and gender fluid dressing? Probably. Never since the Nineties phenom of skater girl Avril Lavigne have we lusted after a boyish look so bad.
8 Kristen Stewart: "I feel more confident on my feet"
Famously awkward actress Kristen Stewart isn't afraid to cause a stir with her fashion choices. Stewart’s sneakers have become a ubiquitous red carpet staple, and the Twilight star makes no apologies for them. “I feel more confident on my feet,” she told a magazine reporter in 2013. “Like in a photo, obviously, things look better wearing heels, but in terms of just kicking around and actually like experiencing an entire night, heels limit me.” She added, “I feel I can experience about half of my night that I would be able to experience if I was just wearing shoes and I could run around. Literally, these [heels] slow you down.” Controversial words, since the majority of female executives still sport the heel as a daily feature of their board room wardrobe. Are they encasing their feet in the prison of patriarchy? Or should we make like Charlize Theron in new release Atomic Blonde and use our heels for nothing other than smashing the glass ceiling?
7 Tina Fey: Producer of Mean Girls
“[Please let my daughter] not have to wear high heels.” Tina Fey is has become a beloved comedian renowned for her performances in Saturday Night Live, not to mention her work as a producer of cult classic Mean Girls and embodiment and validator of neurotic femininity after age thirty on the hit series 30 Rock. In her touching and hilarious letter to her daughter in her book Bossypants, Fey writes that she hopes the next generation will “not have to wear high heels” (as well as avoid a whole slew of other curses associated with being a woman). As a result of cultural phenomena like the comedies that Fey herself has both produced and starred in, the tide is turning, and Fey might just have her way. A rise in the prestige of female comics has precipitated awareness of gender stereotyping among audiences, and female-produced shows like Big Little Lies and this summer's blockbuster hit Wonder Woman suggest that there is an audience for media that presents different pictures of femininity.
6 Kate Beckinsale: One step forward, two steps back(lash)
Another celeb who's trying to protect her daughter from oppressive of straitjackets of 'femininity' like corsets and high heels is British actress Kate Beckinsale. On a recent episode of Chelsea Handler, the actress was asked about teaching her teenage daughter about healthy body image in a world of Photoshopped perfection. She responded saying that she had recommended her daughter read a book that had meant a lot to her growing up. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women by Susan Faludi proposes that cultural fetishes for overly specific or unattainable female body types are an unconscious, inadvertent reaction against improvements in female equality. The idea is that when women make big strides politically, getting the vote for example, the fashion unconsciously turns towards increasingly unattainable body types. Backlash elaborates by tracing the subjugation of women simultaneously through history and through dress. Are high heels really slowing us down? Food for thought.
5 Amy Poehler: "I improvise in sneakers"
Fey's partner in crime is the equally go-getting comic Amy Poehler, who is also anti-heel. You'll know her from Saturday Night Live, hit show Parks and Recreation, and her book "Yes Please." “I do not improvise in heels" she has said. "I improvise in sneakers. Why would I improvise in heels? It’s terrible." There's been a lot of discussion about the differences between the rules for male and female comics, despite the levelling factor of funniness. What gets the laugh is (apparently) political, and while a myriad faces spring to mind when you think of female funny people, much of their comedy also revolves around their gender. It's a typical comic move to satirize one's own appearance and traits. But the fact that we're still laughing at material about being a woman suggests that this is still edgy enough to tickle our funny bone, whilst being acceptable enough for audiences to recognize and identify with.
4 Elizabeth Olsen: Sitting in a pool
“When I’m wearing heels at events, my feet feel like they’re sitting in pools of blood”, Elizabeth Olsen has been quoted as saying. The actress and her twin sisters also share in being fans of flats. Elizabeth even wore flat sandals to the Cannes Film Festival, normally THE event at which celebrities step out in sky high heels. Not so our Elizabeth. In an interview, the other Olsen sister said “I don’t like wearing heels. I’ve had a couple of times now where I feel like, by the end of the night, when I’m wearing heels at events, my feet feel like they’re sitting in pools of blood. And it’s really awful.” We feel your pain Elizabeth. We've all heard the legend about how Louboutin shoes' red soles pay homage to the streetwalkers who once paraded through the fish stalls of Paris. The designer has said: "It's not about comfort, it's about beauty". Perhaps Elizabeth is an alternative theory worth paying attention to.
3 Scarlett Johansson: A lucky mistake
It was almost expected that when Scarlett tripped over on the set of Under the Skin, the Internet was filled with hilarious memes. Scarlett's unscripted slip up producing one of the film's most important moments, with the people of Glasgow, Scotland, helping the undercover starlet to her feet. The bizarre world of Under the Skin was born out by the alienated, documentary style of shooting. Glazer had Scarlett interact with unwitting non-celebrities in some of Britain's most unremarkable and overlooked towns. The plot followed her character's trajectory from an alien awakening in the skin of a human being (a woman in fact), following her journey towards discovering human empathy. The internet, as it happened, was less empathetic than the famously scurrilous inhabitants of Glasgow's streets, pouncing on the opportunity to make a decent meme from this cataclysmic moment. Scarlett's slip up spawned a slew of memes almost hellish in their multiplicity. But hey, you've got to love a meme.
2 Hilary Duff: The circus freak of womanhood
There's nothing we love more than seeing the human side of a celebrity. And there's nothing funnier than people falling over. These two things came into beautiful, celestial alignment when Hilary Duff took the plunge in this smashing red and blue ensemble. Snapped here hitting the deck with an appropriately Thespian gesture, the Disney actress joined the hordes of celebrities whose embarrassing falls have been caught on camera by the mercilessly press. Sure, it's entertaining when people fall over. But have we ever thought about how much easier it is to fall over in heels? You might remember Amy Schumer's skit on the similarities between being a woman and being a clown, in her 2012 comedy tour routine. As Amy points out, "We are circus freaks, women! We put paint on our faces", we wear stilts (high heels), we wear G-strings like high wires, and compete for male attention. Girl's got a point.
1 Naomi Campbell: Queen of catwalk fails
When it comes to falling over in heels though, Eighties supermodel Naomi Campbell's notorious Vivienne Westwood catwalk slip up walks off with the top prize. Known for her weird and wonderful creations, the Brit designer has heeled many a celebrity in unwalkable footwear. Her designs paved the way for absurdities like the Alexander McQueen point shoes famously worn by Lady Gaga in the Bad Romance video. The now famous Vivienne show gained a tidal wave of press attention for the trip up. More so even, than the clothes themselves. It also gained the supermodel a reputation for drama, which Campbell has struggled to shake off ever since. More importantly though, it was the beginning of the public's obsession with failure. Campbell's fall from grace plunged the world into a new era that would ultimately find expression in reality TV. So if you do fall over in your six inch pumps, take heart. Falling is Biblical: it's all Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. We're all obsessed with falling in love, which also involves going head over heels. Remember: as legendary cross dressing artist Grayson Perry puts it, "your mistakes are your style".