Heels to die for

2015-02-15 16:30

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Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe should come with one of those “warning: explicit content” stickers on the cover – because the shoes are so scintillating, it feels almost pornographic.

This gorgeous coffee table volume is filled with the fascinating and rich history of the high-heeled shoe and documents how it has been a symbol of power and fantasy for well over six centuries.

The book tracks this coveted fashion item’s place in power, fantasy, sexuality and identity.

It even touches on how high-heeled shoes have influenced buildings and architecture, such as that of the renowned Eiffel Tower in Paris.

From its days as a symbol of the European aristocracy in the 13th century to its practical use by butchers – to keep them clear of animal blood – right up to the moment it became a symbol of women’s empowerment, the heel has had changing uses and meanings.

The book contains a variety of perspectives, which make it a pleasure to read for curious minds, and I especially liked that it has a strong feminist perspective.

It also provides a fascinating account of how high heels have become a fetish.

There is a great account of how mainstream fashion has always borrowed – and in some instances, blatantly stolen – from the underground.

This sees the closely linked history of shoe design and the sadomasochism scene.

In addition to well-written essays, there are pages and pages of the weird, fabulous and wonderful interpretations of shoes over the years.

It covers the foot-binding pumps of 13th-century China, Italian chopines, dominatrix red-soled Christian Louboutins, fanciful Giuseppe Zanottis, ghost heels, ballerina pumps, Manolo Blahniks, Chanels, Jimmy Choos, Vivienne Westwoods and other less known designers who have all been inspired by the stiletto.

It’s enough to make the girls from Sex and the City weep.

A major criticism is that it is heavily focused on US fashion design and culture, with an obvious lack of contemporary eastern European, Asian and African references.

However, the book is a great gift for shoe lovers, fashionistas or historians. It is also the kind of thing you can’t wait to show your guests, if they haven’t spotted it already. Well worth the buy.

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe

Lisa Small, Stefano Tonchi, Caroline Weber

Prestel USA

224 pages

R710 from kalahari.com (hardcover)

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