I was about 12 or 13 when my mom gave me my first pair of high heels. I’d begged for them—I wanted them for a cousin’s wedding, to which I would be wearing a very pretty dress, and my special occasion flats just wouldn’t cut it.
And so, like any wonderful, indulgent mother, she took me shopping after school one day and bought the shoes, to my utter delight.
They were very simple black sandals with a modest two-inch heel. Nowadays, I don’t bother with anything lower than a three-inch sole—I have exactly one pair like that in my shoe closet, in fact, and they are my comfy, everyday wedges. But back then, when I twirled in front of the department store mirror in those little sandals, those two extra inches made me feel properly grown up, like I could do absolutely anything I put my mind to.
Of course, when you’re a kid, there aren’t many places you can wear high heels to. After my cousin’s wedding, my little black shoes didn’t get much airing out. Neither did the pair of silver sandals my mom presented me with for my grade school graduation several months later. I wore them to the ceremony and to the family celebration afterward, and then I placed them on my shoe shelf when we got home, where they remained, gathering dust, for about half a year.
But high school was a different story. High school had presentations and plays and parties and prom—not just your own, but other schools’ too, if you were lucky enough to get asked. I started buying heels—or at least, buttering up my mom to buy them for me—with as much regularity as I did flats. What else could a girl do with so many convenient excuses?
You can just imagine what happened when I hit college.
I can’t say I remember each and every one of those high heels—I’ve since discarded them due to dilapidation or given them away once they went out of style. But I will say, with complete conviction, that the delicious, girly, grown-up feeling they always seemed to give me has never waned.
And yet I must admit that my real, honest-to-goodness, head-over-heels romance with the tall shoe started when I entered the working world. Imagine working in fashion, where heels aren’t exactly required, but nonetheless implicitly expected. No problem, boss! I wore heels every single day of the week—sometimes two different kinds in one day if I was going to a dressy business event in the evening. It became such a matter of fact for me to trot from place to place in towering footwear that when, on frenzied days, I showed up at the office in ballet flats, my co-workers would immediately say, “Oh no. Are you stressed?” (True story!)
Now, as some of you might know, I’ve been working freelance since June, so I don’t go to an office anymore—and I don’t get to wear heels as often as I used to. But that’s had zero impact on my heel-a-holic nature; really, even when I set out to purchase practical flats, I end up spending on heels. I can't wear them every day, but does that ever stop me? Nope. It just makes it all the more special when I’m gussying up for a dinner or a birthday party, and the finishing touch is a pair of my freshest stilts.
Sure, I know not everyone is a high heel fan—some women abhor them because they can be painful and uncomfortable. But for girls like me who can’t live without them, high heels are an extension of our femininity—and an empowered femininity, at that. They change the way you move, the way you carry yourself, and the way you feel in your clothes, and once you’ve mastered the tricky technique of walking in them, they boost your confidence in a way that no fabulous dress or incredible shade of lipstick can. Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world,” and that might as well be my motto.
So my advice is to break out your best heels whenever you can! Go on, give it a try--you never know where they might take you. And if you need a little convincing, check out what these famous folks had to say in appreciation of them (Marilyn certainly wasn’t alone in her opinions).
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(Flashbox photo from Sex and the City courtesy of HBO)