By Lara McPherson
Earlier this week, as I watched a poor unsuspecting woman teeter down the slippery Melbourne streets in her too-high heels with two overflowing bags plus a laptop and a coffee in hand, I couldn’t help but giggle at the ridiculousness of the scenario in front of me.
That was until I remembered how often it is that I witness something like this – or worse still – how often I used to find myself in the same situation. How many women are unable to perform at their optimum level because of what they wear? Silly as that sounds, I think it might be a legitimate question.
I had a small epiphany recently, one that has caused me to seriously reconsider my shoe habits and relegate many of my prettiest pairs of heels to the back of the wardrobe. I walked from the south-side of Melbourne to the north-side to meet someone for breakfast -in my sneakers! (Cue gasps of – mock – shock horror.) I left my bulky SLR camera, note book, macbook, uni text books, two pairs of sunglasses, gloves, hand cream, several options of lipstick colour, snacks, wallet, two sets of keys, emergency public transport reading and other emergency public transport reading behind. I set off for my breakfast date with only a phone, house key and 20 bucks.
And I had a glorious time. I cannot tell you how long it has been since I took the opportunity to actually enjoy getting from A to B. (Remember that old pearl of wisdom – “Its about the journey, not the destination”? Well, it applies to literal journeys too, not just metaphorical life ones.) I strolled, I meandered, I detoured cross country, delighted by how easy and quick it was for me to walk from one side of the city to the other, free from the limits of excess baggage and impractical footwear.
It got me thinking about some things, namely, why women insist on struggling under the weight of often entirely unhelpful baggage (there’s me being literal again), PLUS make things even more difficult for themselves by throwing on impractically high heels. Why, why, why? Where is the sense in this? No wonder we’re not known for our practicality!
Now, I’m going to go right ahead and play devil’s advocate for my own argument because – let’s face it – I get the high heels thing. They look great – elongating the figure, balancing an outfit and making it more difficult for men to (literally, again) look down our blouse. They make you feel ever so slightly more assertive, and certainly a little more lean and graceful (except when you stack – that kind of ruins things). They go better with most outfits than your ratty running shoes, and they are ever so slightly more chic.
Similarly, I identify with the need to carry around every single item that might possibly be needed for the day. Sure, contingency planning and risk management for that moment when you’re standing alone at the train station is essential, and a laptop is nigh on necessity for a modern working lass, but surely there is a point where carrying every likely tool needed for the day on your person becomes counterproductive? Where you’ll become limited in what you can achieve in the 12 hours you’re outside the house by the sheer volume of crap you’re carting? Is this ringing any bells? I see you nodding.
At the risk of falling well and truly over the fine line into fully-fledged feminism, I am amazed most woman manage to achieve anything – what with tight clothing, handbags, heels, not to mention juggling babies, prams, greying hair and a full time job. What a load of expectations to try and manage! Oh, to be a man and wear flat shoes, comfortable clothes and skip the whole childbirth scenario!
Now I can take this argument to the extreme and suggest that any and all clothing that doesn’t allow us to exist comfortably and move easily should be banned from our wardrobes (modern day bra burning, anyone?), but that ain’t my style. I like a gorgeously constructed but breath-restricting blazer as much, if not more, than the next person. I’ve struggled at times to pull on the tightest of jeans because they go with a particularly shirt. I’m certainly not saying we need to exclude these things from our wardrobe. Just like any style obsessed street observer, I know just how much what you wear says about you, your attitudes, beliefs and values, who or what you identify with, what “scene” you’re a part of (or wish to be) and what image you want to project to the world.
But the next time you’re pulling on your entirely gorgeous but extremely impractically heeled boots, consider the following:
“Will this kit prevent me from achieving everything I want to today? Are my wardrobe choices limiting my potential? Is looking good or achieving good more of a priority to me? Would wearing practical shoes today make things easier for me? Would I rather be renowned for wearing pretty shoes or for being someone who takes myself and my achievements seriously?”
I’m not saying looking good and doing good are mutually exclusive. I’m not saying we all need to put pressure on ourselves to achieve great things. I’m not suggesting you wear runners out for breakfast. I’m not saying we you have to agree with me on any of this. But couldn’t we give ourselves a break? Shouldn’t it be each of us – rather than the word of some magazine editor – who determines how we strike our own balance of good looks and substance?
And wouldn’t it be great if someone designed some shoes that look good and are actually easy to walk in?!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lara McPherson is a curious individual living the good life in Melbourne. She’s fond of fashion, food, the arts and folks in hats. She is passionate about helping the Australian Fashion Industry transition to environmentally and socially sustainable practices. She helps consumers support this through Wardrobe Wonderland. Visit Lara on the web at http://laramcpherson.com/