In New York, high heels are standing tall

In New York, high heels are standing tall

NOTo wonder they take the elevator. The class takes place on the 12th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. The women who arrive have a pair of shoes in their bags; they’ve come here to learn how to walk in them. Their teacher, Olga Kuznetcova, is of Russian origin. She lives in New York, close to the Lincoln Center and its concert halls. When she saw the cabs arriving and the elegant women getting out, walking hesitantly on their heels, she thought they needed help.

In the three years since Covid-19 first appeared and with the rise of feminism, no one sees any point in wearing shoes that hurt their feet anymore. Among the women taking part in the $80-an-hour heel-walking classes, one participant hasn’t worn such shoes since the pandemic. Others are keen to (re)learn how to walk in heels in preparation for an event, like those who take three months of Waltz lessons to be able to open the ball. One young woman came in preparation for her wedding in January.

They all found out about the course on social media, where Olga’s daughter Alissa posted experiences she had filmed. The teacher asked the students not to bring stiletto shoes over four inches high. The former model has them walk across a room on a wooden slat placed on the floor to learn how to put one foot in front of the other. Kuznetcova has compiled a list of all the things that betray the gait of someone who doesn’t know how to walk upright, including looking furtively all around them to see who’s aware that they’re not walking normally, looking at their feet, dropping their shoulders to make themselves smaller because they’re not used to being so tall.

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‘Act of endurance’

Twelve floors down, on nearby Fifth Avenue, all the women are in sneakers. Kuznetcova knows that New York has become “sneakers city.” When asked if she thinks she’s addressing a shrinking market at a time when Crocs has released a pair of cowboy boots and Birkenstock is going public, she believes her sessions will remain necessary, since “women still want to wear Louboutins and Manolo Blahniks.” The 30-something is certain that “women will continue to wear heels for occasions when men wear suits and ties.”

American politics seems to be proving her right. The Republican Party primary debates systematically feature a line-up of candidates wearing suits and ties, from which emerges one woman, Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s ex-governor and UN ambassador, who not only wears high heels but never misses an opportunity to talk about them. Back in her campaign debut speech in February, she explained that, “when you kick back, it hurts them more if you are wearing heels.” And when, during the November 8 debate, a candidate called her “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels,” she corrected him to “five-inch.”

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