I love a good flat shoe. Not surprising, considering that I’m pushing 5’11”. Add on any extra inches and I unfurl upwards to well over six feet. Sometimes there’s a kind of satisfaction in heels lifting me to tallest girl in the room – leaning my elbow on friends’ shoulders and generally being a little obnoxious about towering above half the boys. Plus, heels make legs look good (well, as we’re constantly told by various magazines trying to convince us of their use).
Yet here are some of the things one can’t do with quite the same ease in heels: run very quickly for something you’re late for, stay out all night without complaining constantly about your feet, go on long walks regardless of terrain or weather, march along the pavement with purpose (and without wobbling), cycle long distances, walk steadily when you’ve had a few glasses of wine and balance is becoming more difficult to navigate, climb over five bar gates or clamber up stairs two at a time, move around without the inner monologue of “ow, bloody ow, this hurts, ow, and I’m slower than I want to be. Ow.”
There are a few people out there who I marvel at for their ability to saunter around in stilettoes without any visible effort. Maybe their feet are made of stronger stuff? Either that, or they’re better at hiding the pain/ remembering to keep gel cushions in their clutches to soften the aches. And yes, heels can be glamorous or elegant or powerful or intimidating or gut-punchingly gorgeous.
However it seems that, to use some abysmal ‘fash-speak’, flats are having a moment. At the last LFW, many designers showcased outfits accompanied by sandals, trainers and lace-ups – the models not strutting, but strolling. To those of us who make our sartorial choices independent of what the industry deems on-trend (i.e., I suspect, most of us) this may be a case of “so what? I’ve been doing this for years.” But it’s interesting that functional footwear is being seen as important enough for plenty of brands to be promoting it.
It seems to be something of a growing movement too. Hannah Rochell’s recent book ‘En Brogue: Love Shoes. Love Fashion. Hate Heels’ (the title taken from her fabulous blog) is something of an ode to all things flat. A playful publication, it’s full of delicious information and illustrations.
I remember being in my last year at secondary school, sick of the ballet pumps worn by all my female peers. I decided that the way forward was brogues. However, although now ubiquitous in every shop you you pop into, at that point they were much harder to source. All I could find were flimsy, thin-soled shoes playing at being brogues. So I switched tack and began scouring the men’s section in charity shops. Eventually I found a pair of St Michael shiny size 6.5 black brogues – made of stiff, dependable leather. I wore them until they fell apart.
I’ve continued the tradition since by buying plenty more pairs of brogues and loafers for men (I swear they’re usually better constructed), although I do have a deficit of flat shoes that can be worn for evenings out. (Instead I usually end up pairing my lace dresses with Chelsea boots). But it means I can remain later and dance longer, unhampered by pinched toes or sore heels. To me, as much as the aesthetic of a heel appeals, flats are ultimately more liberating – and I want clothes that allow me to feel confident, to stride around and to embody the space that I’m in.
Here I'm wearing some rather glorious second hand velvet DMs my mum found on eBay for £15. She's an online shopping marvel (with great taste). I've worn them a lot this term at uni. To complete the look of all-things-tactile, I'm wearing a dress bought from the bargain section of one of my favourite Oxford vintage shops - Reign. It was £8, and has since seen many a trip out for cocktails, dancing, and, at the end of last term, punting along the river in the sunshine. Photos taken mid September.