Gender refers to ‘the behavioural, cultural or psychological traits typically associated with one sex’. Clothing and adornment is used to portray different genders, the response to these different items of clothing can be interpreted differently depending on who is reading them; this relates back to semiotics and the signified and signifier. This week I will be exploring the ideas associated with gender and fashion by looking at one item of dress/accessory that is worn in today’s culture.
The picture above shows a high heel from Christian Louboutin’s current collection. In today’s society high heels are predominately associated with women and being feminine and this is the learn response in western culture. Heels first started as a symbol of power and status for men, yes men, in the 16th century. Persian soldiers are known to have worn heels as they were seen as practical wear for horse riding. In Europe aristocrats worn heels for a completely different reason, they chose to wear this type of shoe for its uncomforted and impracticality, as a symbol of luxury. There is no denying that all these years later high heels are still considered uncomfortable and by many impractical as well. When social ideas of gender changed and women were seen as emotional and weaker than the male sex and men became to gender for practicality the decline of the male heel and gender swap associated with this shoe happen. By the end of te 17th century heels where a purely female fashion.
In today’s western society high heels are the top symbol for femininity and female sexuality. I for one wear heels to make myself feels sexier and certainly more powerful; so in that sense the power aspect to the heel hasn’t changed. although you wouldn’t think of it but every shoe designer that designs heels for women is in fact challenging it’s original gender. Louboutin is famous for his heels with their iconic red sole.
The image above is another from Christian Louboutin’s current collection. This shoe is the highest ‘heel’ in the men’s collection.
The film ‘Kinky Boots’ is true story about the family run factory that makes shoes that then to save it from bankruptcy begins making heels for transvestite men. In modern society this is where you will find the most men wearing high heels , when they are portraying women. This shows just how genderised the high heels has become, for even when they are worn by men it is to show femininity and as a symbol of them dressing as a female.