'People knew I was in office because they could hear me'
Pot-holed roads, rickety autos and getting in and out of Ubers may not be the ideal space for six-inch Louboutins. But Mumbai's divas in heels would have it no other way
PR Accounts director Namrata Kumar, at 5 feet 8 inches tall, loves the effect she has on people when she walks into a room, in her five-inch heels. If that makes her intimidating, then so be it. "I like that feeling". It's only at parties at close friend's home, that she ditches them, just so nobody has to look up at her and talk.
The 32-year-old still remembers the first pair she bought from Bandra's Hill Road, a pair of black net stilettos with beads, "I wanted them to be quite fancy, as it was my birthday," she laughs. Since then though, her favourite brand is Charles and Keith, and she owns around seven. "All through college, I let them be, as I was too tall anyway. But I was waiting for the minute I started working," says the Versova resident, who started her career working as a producer in television.
Rubeena Singh has over 100 shoes in her Khar home. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
For her, the heels make her feel appropriately dressed up for corporate meetings. "It's very hard to ignore me," says Kumar, who travels comfortably around in city autos with her sky scrapers on. From Cinderella to Carrie Bradshaw (who remained skinny because she bought shoes rather than eat ice cream after every break-up), the stiletto has had us mooning over it for centuries. Slip on a high heel, and be sexy instantly, is the belief most of us possess.
Feminists may balk at this, but a 2014 French study by the Université de Bretagne-Sud, published in the Springer's journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, found that a woman who stood on the street and asked passing men to fill a survey, or who "accidentally" dropped a glove, got more positive responses when she was wearing heels as opposed to flat shoes.
Taking autos in heels doesn't faze PR accounts director Namrata Kumar. Pic/Satej Shinde
The same was true when she was at a bar. To men, it would seem, a woman's heel size "exerts a powerful effect on men's behaviour". In Japan, Yumi Ishikawa, an actress and writer, launched a petition urging her government to ban companies from requiring high heels in the workplace. It hasn't got much support though from government officials. Also, the fact that it could cause injuries, especially to the knees, hardly seems to be deterring anyone.
"To be honest, I have two left feet when I am wearing flats. All the concern against high heels are purely personal," says Ericsson IT engineer Kriti Singh, who made her husband wear shoe pads on their wedding so that she didn't look taller than him. Singh, at 5 feet 4 inches remembers being squashed during train rush hour.
Kriti Singh says she has two left feet in flats
"I bought my first pair of six-inches from Linking Road. Then, I was standing head and shoulder above everyone. I felt prettier! I felt thinner!" says the 37-year-old who got hooked on to heels during frequent travels to Sweden for work. "In Sweden, they even wear heels if it's snowing. They even have little condom-like covers for the heels, so that they can be worn anywhere. When I came back, I paid so much money for extra baggage," says the Thane resident, who owns around 25 pairs of heels — all in good condition — and buys most of her heels online, with a soft spot for Ajio.
If Singh is living her life in heels in Thane, in Khar, Rubeena Singh has a room in her four-bedroom home dedicated to just her shoes. "You know, the big house is mostly for storage," she laughs sheepishly. We are already envying her, when she tells us she is also 5 feet 7 inches tall. The CEO of digital marketing company, iProspect India, says that she has been wearing heels for 18 years, also because they make her feel formal, and give her focus.
"Now, it's cool to wear flats with formals, but when I started out, heels were it. It's uncomfortable at first, but then one gets used to it," says Singh, who usually shops from Ferragamo, and loves the pop colours at Zara. "Of course they give me confidence, but also, when a woman is growing in her career, I think wearing heels can get you the right kind of attention. People take you seriously when you are dressed well. They have now become a part of me." The same emotion is echoed by Charu Gaur, the founder of fashion site Runway Square. "I hunched a lot, and it improved my posture right away. Most clothes also look better with a pair of heels on. They just add a lot to your person!"
Charu Gaur, editor of Runway Square, in her Louboutins
In the end, who knows why women wear heels? Does it make them feel more attractive, or feel more powerful? Oprah and Sheryl Sandberg are often pictured in heels. Or do they level the playing field as far as their status with men in concerned? Dawnn Karen of the Fashion Psychology Institute has argued that, just like shorter men, women too can get a Napoleon complex. Heels are a way to gain back the power one lacks due to their height. But most women we spoke to saw the stilettos as an extension of their personality, and a way of letting people know they have arrived.
"People actually knew I was in office because they could hear me running around office in my heels," laughs Valencia Dsouza, country manager for Gucci watches, who stands at 5 feet 4 inches tall. "I think I was born in heels! I often go dancing with my father, and he always asks me to wear heels, as I just move differently. In flats, I am clumsy," says the 39-year-old, who owns around 30 pairs, and is fan of Puma Fenty (a line designed by popstar Rihanna for Puma), and Louboutins. "It just changes my aura, and makes me feel powerful. I just walk taller, right?"
High heel check
The divas tell us how to take care of those heels, in humid, dusty Mumbai
. Store in individual shoe bags in dray places
. In humid weather, use silica gel pouches
. Wipe them down with wet wipes
. Use them. If boxed up for long, they will get spoilt, no matter what
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