French designer Christian Louboutin has indeed encouraged a lot of women to flaunt heels. According to him, ‘The (heels) higher the better. It’s more about an attitude. High heels empower women in a way.’
But is it really true? According to a study published in The Washington Post, ‘Women, in America are trading in their high-heeled stilettos for sneakers and ballet flats. Workplaces are becoming more casual, and it is increasingly acceptable to wear sneakers to dinner. The sales of high heels dropped 12 per cent last year, while sales of women’s sneakers rose 37 per cent to $2.3 billion, according to the NPD Group’s (a market research company) retail tracking service.’
In the same study, Katie Smith, director of retail analysis at Edited, points out that although women still have heels in their wardrobes, social mores are changing and there isn’t an expectation anymore that if she or any other woman goes to a party, they have to put on their heels, stand for two hours and torment themselves in the name of fashion.
Back home, the scenario is also changing and more and more women are associating heels with pain, medical complications and health hazards, hence they are opting for flats, ballerinas and sneakers. For the new-age woman, the first rule of fashion is that ‘it should be comfortable’. And it’s not just women wearing sneakers and going clubbing, attending casual get-togethers or going on a date, but even daring brides are donning them as well.
Comfort over style
Back in 2016, Pretty Woman actress Julia Roberts ditched her heels at the red carpet of The Cannes Film Festival and created a stir. And now US actress and member of the Feature Film Jury Kristen Stewart has done it again. At the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival, Kristen walked barefoot on the red carpet.
Choice of footwear, along with comfortable clothing, is a big step towards evolving fashion ensuring what you wear ‘doesn’t hurt.’ On the new trend of sneakers and flats replacing heels, Nancy Luharuwalla, footwear designer and owner, De Belle, says that self-acceptance is making today’s women confident in their own skin. They no longer depend on superficial means to feel secure. “More and more women are ditching the uncomfortable high heels for comfy flats/ sneakers. This shift directs to a healthy trend of prioritising one’s needs and comforts before anything else. Besides, sneakers also look trendy and give a good comfortable twist to traditional outfits,” says Luharuwalla.
Echoing Luharuwalla, Mahindra Tripathi, CEO, SevenSole Shoes, says that one must give credit to female sneakers for this realisation. “Because of this trend, women don’t have to experience the pain while they can still look gorgeous. The trend of female sneakers has gained momentum in the last few years and it’s getting bigger and better. The trend is also giving women an edge while giving them the freedom to wear them for any occasion, be it gym, office or a party. This shift — from heels to sneakers — is ultimately making them happy and I must say, why should boys have all the fun?” quips Tripathi.
Convenient for today’s women
Heels have been very closely associated with fashion, style, femininity and sensuousness for centuries, so the belief that this fashion element is not an indispensable part of how you look, didn’t come by easily. Women are not very confident about embracing their height. But things are changing now.
Says Luharuwalla, “Conventionally, women have worn heels nearly everywhere — from workplace to weddings, parties, picnics, etc to look chic and stylish. But with changing times and multitasking, which is intrinsic to women, it has become increasingly difficult to pace up and down in high heels. Hence women these days are ditching those dreamy high heels for a comfy pair of sneakers. Be it a celebrity or the girl next door, everyone is rocking sneakers these days. Celebrities like Kristen Stewart and Millie Bobbie Brown have worn sneakers to galas while Indian film producer Rhea Kapoor slipped into sneakers with a traditional dress, recently at her sister Sonam Kapoor’s mehendi ceremony.”
Casual is the ‘in’ thing
Further stressing on the importance of comfort in fashion, Luharuwalla says, “Comfort over fashion has become the new trend. Moreover, casualisation of every occasion is also a reason for the shift. Sneakers or flats are not only comfortable but also look trendy. Hopefully, this trend is here to stay for long because women are not to be slowed down with heels in today’s fast moving world. They have decided to trade high heels for suave sneakers and ‘happy feet.”
HERE COMES THE Bride
Of late, new-age brides in their bright red or pink lehengas have been flaunting sneakers along with their wedding ensembles and some of the brides have even made headlines for dressing ‘out of the box.’ Even posters of films like Dolly Ki Doli and Happy Bhag Jayegi had Sonam Kapoor and Diana Penty (playing brides) sporting sneakers and canvas shoes, respectively, along with their wedding attires. And they did catch our fancy.
A few new-age brides like Seema Dhillon decided to slip into sneakers while wearing a floral embroidered lehenga on her wedding day. “You got to be edgy, sporty and yet beautiful and that was the idea behind me ditching heels at my wedding. I never felt comfortable wearing them, so why would I let them spoil my big day when I wanted to have fun!” she exclaims.
Sneakers? Not always!
However, ace designer Masaba Gupta says that India is still very traditional when it comes to bridal wear. In her entire career, she has come across only one bride, who happened to be really tall and opted for sneakers at her wedding instead of heels.
“Let them wear heels with their lehengas and sarees, but the heels could be a bit comfortable. I feel, weddings are traditional and whatever the bride wears — lehenga or saree — traditional footwear goes well with their look,” she says.