High Heel (2019): Summer Brennan

★★★★

Bloomsbury Object Lessons

What do you think of when you think of high heels? For me, there’s a divide between high heels ‘in the wild’ and my own experience. High heels in general are elegant: they’re worn by women who are smart, professional and probably wealthy enough to jump in a taxi rather than risk getting their stiletto wedged in a Tube station escalator. A woman of this type would probably not get her heel trapped in a grille on a staircase, and has to grimly hunker down, one shoe on, one shoe off, to winkle it out. (That was me.) Heels have a mythos of their own, provoking envy, longing and pride in otherwise quite reasonable women, and transforming their designers into household names; but why should this be? Exactly what is it that makes the high heel such an enduring object of obsession? The Bloomsbury Object Lessons series is always engaging, but Summer Brennan’s investigation of the heel is a particular favourite so far. Embracing Greek myth, fairy tales, history, fashion and biology, she sets out on a quest to understand exactly why this most uncomfortable of shoes has become the most ubiquitous. Fierce, feminist and fascinating.

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