Real Men Wear Heels

Real Men Wear Heels

Real Men Wear Heels

AN ANALYSIS OF SAINT LAURENT’S UNISEX HEELED BOOTS

AN ANALYSIS OF SAINT LAURENT’S UNISEX HEELED BOOTS

Text: Wyatt Allgeier

From the moment I saw it tucked into cigarette trousers, I was spellbound. I watched as Hedi Slimane’s svelte Saint Laurent boys turned at the end of the catwalk, exposing a sturdy heel. It was a hybrid of a Chelsea boot, a Cuban heel, and the elevated footwear worn by Yves Saint Laurent himself in the late ’60s and early ’70s. What’s more is that it was shown on the boys and the girls, and I wondered, Will it come in such a variety of sizes? And will Saint Laurent’s slick rocker men dare to embrace another 85mm of height? One thing was certain—the complete look, tied together and dependent upon a lift of the heel, was desirable.

I was lucky enough to test-drive these shoes. Aptly named the French Boot, they come in three different heel heights (45mm, 60mm, and 85mm) and five varying styles. Yes, it is considered a “unisex” accessory, designed with a severity that is erotic without being demarcated as a gendered object.

A shallow look through the history of the high heel reveals a lineage here. Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, was an early fan of a little something extra at the heel. He is famed for many extravagant trappings, among them his talons rouge (red heels). By his decree, no one in France, except for nobility, could wear heels at all and absolutely no one could wear a heel higher than his. This served a double function of putting him literally on a pedestal as well as codifying his majesty as absolutely above practical labor and profane efficiency. From my experience in Slimane's talons noir, I understand the function on a personal level. It is the power to visually and physically prove that this body is above, spatially and conceptually, the mundane reality of common existence.

Women have been cognizant of heels double-edged sword, of supplying power and simultaneously oppressing the liberty to move, for centuries now. However, the heeled shoe for men has experienced a similar fate as the skirt for men, appearing often at the conceptual end of fashion (Rick Owens, for instance, always offers his male clients a lofty shoe or two), but rarely breaking through to the masses (save cowboy boots, which are a whole other story entirely). My suspicion is that men’s hesitancy to wear heels revolves around the vulnerability associated with them. As I walked in Saint Laurent's boot, vulnerability was in ample supply. From the fear of being teased to the very real possibility of teetering over on cobblestones, I was constantly aware that my footing was precarious. To be sublime, above the vulgar commonality of everyday life, was to be vulnerable by definition. In other words, to be comfortable is profane, but glamour is by definition a risk.

It is this transgression of typical gender-roles, a hallmark gesture of the 21st Century already, that should be applauded. While Hedi Slimane may have been chiefly concerned with capturing an aura of rock-and-roll, he also referenced with great deftness a silhouette that engenders a refreshing departure for the oft-deplorable gender known as man. Intention here is a bit irrelevant. Vulnerability as masculinity could be paramount in the dissolution of a volatile patriarchy, an undertaking equally important in physical presence as in the individual psyche.  And I can think of no better accessory for the realization of this vulnerability than the high-heel. After all, what is a life lived without the sublime joy of precarious nobility?

Credits: ALL IMAGES COURTESY SAINT LAURENT PARIS

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