When Daniel Shak recently separated with his wife and divorce proceedings began he was astounded to find that his wife had a secret collection of over 1’200 pairs of designer heels including over 700 pairs of Christian Louboutins. The sheer amount of shoes staggered many but, more than likely, would have made a large number of women jealous, not least reality TV star Kim Kardashian who, in a recent interview, stated that her personal collection of Christian Louboutins only extends to 224 pairs. To men owning triple figures of shoes in and of itself is astounding but considering all these items were designer brands makes this situation as hard to comprehend as something as existentially challenging as the big bang.
Whereas Shak’s incredible, $1million shoe collection is something of an anomaly it does draw attention to the stereotype that women are obsessed with shoes and have so many more than their male counterparts. Whilst Shak’s trove is undoubtedly far more exaggerated than any average woman’s collection will ever be, it is also worth noting that an average woman, according to a number of studies, will own seventeen pairs of shoes in comparison to most men owning four or less. So, why are shoes so important to women? And why are men happy with so few pairs? A large degree of women will have to try on multiple pairs of shoes with each outfit they put together whereas men are just as likely to throw on whichever pair of trainers are nearest to them regardless of the occasion and regardless of whether they suit what they are wearing – it is not uncommon to see men wear the same pair of trainers with tracksuit pants to run in, a pair of jeans in a mistaken belief they are cool and even with smart trousers in an insane calculation that this makes them look both smart and trendy.
What is astounding about women’s relationship with shoes is that they will purchase them even during times of austerity – a luxury product that is not essential, particularly if they already have 16 other pairs. On average, a lady will own 17 pairs of shoes, as mentioned, but also, 1 in 10 women will own more than 30. In the 1980s Imelda Marcos admitted to owning 3’000 pairs of shoes – this amount is so impractical as it would take her nearly ten years to wear each pair just once each. This is a great example of the fact that the actual reason for the popularity of footwear is less to do with utility, practical use or even fashion but rather is more likely to be psychological.
Many women relate shoes not to just how they look but also how they will feel – a pair of high heeled shoes can make their wearer seem taller and will help extend their legs and straighten their back. This, in turn, can help improve self-confidence and even self-esteem. Psychologists have also pointed out that many women will have more memories, and even emotional feelings, attached to their shoes than any other item of clothing and it is this powerful attachment that provides the link between shoes and women’s attachment to them.
One thing that many men also do not understand with women is the amount of pain they are willing to put their feet through. It is a not little known fact that wearing towering shoes such as stilettos can be seriously painful on the feet and can misshape them and even, ultimately, cause bunions. Yet, as noted by the trainer example detailed above, men are much more likely to favour comfort over nearly any other criteria when purchasing shoes – a completely polemic view to many women. Women will often state that they wear high heels not to impress other men but for their own sake or even to impress other women; this suggests furthermore that women’s attachments to shoes is more a psychological one rather than an attempt to appear more attractive in the eyes of men, although this can often be a side effect or minor consideration too.
Women will now often travel to work in one pair of trainers, before changing in to their stilettos or heeled work shoe on arrival – an admission that oftentimes their favourite shoes are actually impractical to travel in or even walk in. Whereas even the most expensive and formal styles of men’s shoes are practical, high fashion for women often is designed with seemingly the exact opposite purpose in mind. Yet for many shoe shopping represents to them feelings of liberation and joy and wearing the shoes gives off feelings of self-empowerment and liberation. Whether these feelings have been, as Germaine Greer has suggested, manufactured by advertisers (who have a history of peddling harmful goods on the public such as cigarettes who will purchase them regardless of the known health problems associated with them) , exploited by marketers or are a real, organic source of euphoria for women can, and no doubt will, be debated for some time to come.
Kieron Casey is a fashion writer and a shoes online blogger who, whilst loving footwear, is often astounded when hearing of tales about Kim Kardashian’s shoe collection. He is often astounded by Kim Kardashian in general.