September 26, 2020

Heel appeal: how the sexy shoe became the new status quo

The catwalk has recently favoured outrage over allure. But now, whether it’s the Duchess of Cambridge’s vertiginous Pradas or Rihanna’s beloved rhinestone Saint Laurent boots, high heels are back

The Duchess of Cambridge has new shoes. On the offchance that it is not immediately obvious to you why this development is culturally significant, allow me to explain. The duchess’s style is remarkably consistent: for as long as anyone can remember, she has worn pretty clothes in eyecatching colours, teamed with neutral pumps, the heels of which are high enough to look formal while remaining walkable. LK Bennett Sledge courts, which have a subtle platform sole to make them more comfortable, are a favourite. Yet, for the unveiling of the blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum, she wore a daringly bare, vertiginous pair of Prada sandals.

Now, the duchess is no early adopter. Conservative with a small c, she stuck with those nude pumps three years after everyone else was bored to tears with them. So, if even she is wearing a sexy shoe, the sexy shoe is the new status quo. The ultimate It shoe of the upcoming season makes the duchess’s Prada sandal look like something you might slip on to buy a pint of milk. Saint Laurent’s rhinestone slouch boots were a phenomenon from the moment they hit the Paris catwalk. Within days, Rihanna had Instagrammed herself in a pair with the one-word caption “obsessed”. Customers were ringing stores demanding to know when there would be a waiting list to join. Net-a-Porter has spent more on the boot than on any other item this season; and months before they were visible on the site, half had been sold to VIP customers. Oh, by the way – should any appear on the open market – the price tag is £6,000.

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