Friday, December 8, 2023

Poise, Power & Problems: I Wore Heels for a Week for the First Time in… FOREVER. Here’s What Happened

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Kelly Bertrand, like so many of us, eschewed heels following the pandemic after abandoning the corporate office life. But is she missing something? She gives them a go again – with some surprising results!

I remember my first heel era. I would have been in my mid-20s, working in the ‘glamorous’ world of magazines, where I would dutifully stuff my hooves into wildly uncomfortable plastic heels (the only ones I could afford on my writer’s salary) and trot about the office thinking I looked like something out of The Devil Wears Prada (I was hoping for Emily but in all honestly it was pre-Chanel Andy).

I didn’t care that my feet resembled Gollum meets an All Black forward post-match. I loved my heels because in a wild industry with insane deadlines and even more insane women, my heels gave me a little confidence boost. I wore them everywhere – there’s even a photo of me somewhere kicking a rugby ball at Eden Park (see – rugby player) wearing a cute set of mules.

I equated heels with glamour, with success, with power, and perhaps I’ve embellished somewhat in my memories, but heels were the symbol of the successful woman. Were you even good at your job if you didn’t dutifully pull on a pair of pumps for the daily slog, only to chicly pop them into your tote at 5pm and pop on some ballet flats for the commute home (I swear I thought I was a character in Working Girl).

But, like a lot of us post-pandemic where we got decidedly too comfortable in our loungewear, slippers and activewear, I’ve pretty much shunned most of my heels for years. I don’t have the same need for them as I used to –  I work from home, I’m older and wiser (maybe), I’m totting around with two rebuilt knees and honestly, I just can’t be bothered with faff (although trust me, I wouldn’t say no to a pair with a red sole because hell I’m only human).

I’m far from the only one – reports from around the world report that women have fallen out of love with the high heel post-Covid as dress codes and working environments evolve. Fierce debates still continue to range however around the expectation that a woman ‘should’ wear a heel in a corporate setting, with failure to do so seen as ‘unprofessional’. But equally, in the true spirit of feminism, there is also a fightback in the sense that hell, women should be able to wear whatever they damn well please.

But a few weeks ago I was sitting in a meeting where I needed to summon up a bit of courage and confidence when, for the first time in a long time, I wished I had a pair of heels on. It all came back to me – the feeling of power, of strong confident woman-ness. There’s something about heels that make you stand a bit taller and prouder, that makes you strut a little more as opposed to shuffle, that imbed a little ‘don’t fuck with me’ femininity I was craving. I remember my old boss kept her highest pair of heels (she called them her power heels) under her desk specifically for meetings where she needed a little oomph – and seeing as she’s about 5’10, by hell those wildly-printed skyscrapers did the job.

So I thought, should I give them another go?

A week of wearing heels:

Armed with some plasters, a can-do attitude and probably a bit of delusion, I started my week by sorting through my wardrobe and counting how many pairs of heels I still owned. Stuffed into the back of the closet, perched on the top shelf and even under the bed, I counted nine pairs, not including my newer additions of the humble kitten heel that I have come to love despite my original mid-20s distaste (“what’s the poiiiiint!” I remember scoffing in the mall, turning to my then-favourite stiletto pump with a platform because, 2010’s).

Ah, the memories. The classic nude bridesmaid’s shoes and assorted other ‘one off’ wedding collection that I’ll never wear again even though that was the *specific* reason I chose those ones.

The stupid strappy black ones I bought when I was on crutches after my second ACL replacement as a ‘that’ll be nice one day!’ shoe, but upon wearing them for the first time realised they were more slippery than Winston Peters in coalition talks.

My old favourite ‘every-day’ black pumps I would wear with everything.

A random pair of red stilettos that I have no memory of wearing, or indeed buying (any of my friends missing a pair!?)

But to start the week I selected the old-faithful black numbers, figuring it would be a safe way to begin and, to my surprise, I slipped into them like Cinderella and the glass slipper. They felt familiar, right… sexy? And even though my first day purely consisted of sitting at my desk in my home office, I was excited to trade my fluffy slippers for my heels.

I felt more put-together. More in control of my horrific to-do list, although it made no sense because trust me, that was an uphill climb to find some motivation to tackle that bad boy. Of course, discomfort level was minimal between frequent trips to the fridge and once to the couch.

The next day was tricker – a work event where I’d be on my feet for a few hours. But in the interest of the story I decided to indulge in a new pair of heels for the occasion because why not, so after popping into my favourite shoe designed Nicole Rebstock and selected a pair of her signature Nemesis pumps in my favourite colour, green. The thrill of a new pair of shoes, believe me, was wild. I found myself walking into the party with a bit more of a spring in my step. I even looked better in photos as I realised I wasn’t slouching. And apart from a bit of an ache at the end of the night because I decided that I’d be that guest who dances a but too enthusiastically to the DJ at the end of the night, I was remarkably comfy.

The next few days passed with some highs and lows – the heels at the supermarket were a bad call (it’s just not the vibe, although it did speed up my shopping) and I did almost do an ankle roll when I forgot to take them off while I was taking the wheelie bin down our steep driveway. I also *kind* of cheated by wearing my lowest kitten heels on the Friday when I simply couldn’t take the teetering after a rather large night out on Thursday.

But, after a week of treating my feet to some nicer shoesies than usual, what did I think?

I wore heels for a week – the verdict

Honestly, my love of heels is back. I loved the lift – literally and metaphorically – they gave me. I loved the power and assertiveness I felt. I loved that it felt like I had my shit together, even during the unsure moments of the week where it was all ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. I felt sexier, which, if I’m honest, gave me pause in thinking ‘why?’ but I think it’s because I simply felt that much more feminine – and there’s a glorious satisfaction and power in that, too.          

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