Health & Spirit

Women's shoe heels portend austerity


Published in Women's News

ARMONK, N.Y. (UPI) -- The heels on U.S. women's shoes remain high -- as they often do during poor economic times, but an IBM official says the company's analysis portends a change.

"Usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up -- as consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape," Dr. Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert with IBM Global Business Services, said in a statement. This time, something different is happening -- perhaps a mood of long term austerity is evolving among consumers sparking a desire to reduce ostentation in everyday settings.

The relationship of shoe styles to the economy has been tracked for at least 100 years. The low-heeled flapper shoes in the 1920s were replaced with high-heel pumps and platforms during the Great Depression.

During the 1970s oil crisis, the platform shoe made a comeback reversing the preference for low-heeled sandals in the late 1960s, while the low, thick heels of the 1990s "grunge" period gave way to Sex and the City-inspired stilettos following the dot-com bust at the turn of the century, Davis said.


An analysis of the last four years of social media showed discussions of increasing heel height peaked toward the end of 2009 and declined after that, but key trend-watching bloggers from 2008 to 2009 wrote consistently about heels from 5 to 8 inches. By mid-2011 they were writing about the return of the kitten heel and the perfect flat from Jimmy Choo and Louboutin.

"This is not to say that the sky-high heels have gone, rather that, as the economic downturn has worn on, they are discussed as glamwear and not for the office or shopping trip," Davis said.

Copyright 2011 by United Press International


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