WELL HEELED
By Harlan Yaffe,
Fashion Editor for Todo Ahora
January 7, 2003

The fact that we men love women in high heels can be attributed to the reality that we only have to look at them and not walk in them.  I wonder what would happen if even a small percentage of my high heel loving X chromosomed brethren ever had to harness the balance and coordination required to remain upright while our legs are torqued out of whack by 5" stilettos? Actually I know the answer: despite their esthetic appeal, high heels would have disappeared from the planet while dinosaurs were still king of the forest.  Which leads me to the inevitable quandary of why women still love them. 

A visit in any women's closet, shoe department or the patient list of a podiatrist's office, proves that despite the pinching, squeezing and tilting those heels may cause, frankly, women must adore the way they look as much as men do. I suppose it must be how women feel while wearing them that makes it all worth it despite how excruciating they can feel.  A "he said-she said" debate on the inequality in perceptions of attractiveness between the genders could last longer than the OJ Simpson case with equally inconclusive results. While men's shoes for coming season (what a surprise) look the same as the past season and the season before that, women's shoes are sporting the highest and most spindly towers since the days of Donna Reed. High heels as we know them today have been with us since the Middle Ages, tracing their elevation in fashion to the influence of Catherine de Medici.  Now history has never accorded 'ole Cate a very pleasant rap but then again, I'm best not to judge her: after all, I never had to walk a mile in her shoes, did I gals?

We now flashback to the 16th century when the Medici family was among the most powerful in the world: they were the supreme rulers of Florence, and later of Tuscany. They patronized the arts and produced three popes and arranged enough royal marriages throughout Europe to ensure their lasting influence. This included the 1533 betrothal of the then 14-year old Catherine de Medici to the Duke of Orleans. He was to become the next King of France, Henry II, and Catherine would be his Queen. The diminutive Catherine began feeling insecure in regards to facing the "splendid" French Court. In desperation, she sought the aid of an ingenious Florentine artisan. She confided in him her fear of ruining the future of her family unless she dazzled all at her first French Ball. Her fairy godfather turned out to be not a sorcerer, scholar or politician, but her cobbler. He produced a creation that would cast a spell over the entire French nation when he removed the clunky wooden soles from Catherine's shoes and replaced it with a slender padded four-inch heel. For Catherine, he had concocted that which would later be called the world's most potent aphrodisiac: a device which not only endowed her with indefinable allure in her walk, but gave her the physical stature she could not have otherwise possessed.  As necessity is the mother of invention, Catherine de Medici is the mother of the modern high-heeled shoe.  

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