Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 10 October 2009

It's not voyeurism it's maths

Womens’ shoes have not figured enough in Works Well. They’re important because my standards in pulchritude were established in fifties’ films when women stars were heavily made up, had hairstyles apparently achieved with a planishing hammer, wore sheathlike dresses even in the kitchen and walked around on stilettos. I’d always vaguely assumed this was standard footwear everywhere and it was only in, say, the eighties I realised this was no longer the case.

It’s no doubt crass but I secretly admire stiletto-clad feet. Possibly it’s a fetish. Certainly it’s unforgivable that women are still required to cripple themselves in order to pander to male preferences and in public I’m world president of the Anti-Stiletto League. But in secret…

I conclude the appeal lies in the shoe’s geometry. In profile the stiletto can be rendered as a triangle with a right-angle between the heel and the sole. The angle that matters is the one above the right-angle and it’s a case of the smaller the better; as the heel is lengthened this angle shrinks. Interestingly, though, there is a limit. The shoes shown are pretty near that limit since the tops of the feet are virtually in line with the front of the calf.

In the ballet dancer’s feet, conveniently x-rayed, the angle (in this case relating to a non-existent shoe) has diminished to zero. Leg and foot share the same vertical plane. What started out as an audaciously sexy re-arrangement of nature now becomes an anatomical deformity. There’s no percentage in losing the concept of the foot altogether. I’m glad about this.


The Crow said...


Stilettos change (for the duration)the arrangement of women's anatomy, too, emphasizing the breasts and buttocks. One cannot hunch forward and walk well in stilettos. In my top-heavy youth, high-heels gave me better posture, and a jiggle in my wiggle. Killed my back and my feet for the hours I wore them, but, by golly, I was "perky."

By the time I was thirty, I adopted sensible, comfortable, un-perky shoes.


Rouchswalwe said...

Amazingly enough, the Japanese character ashi, which does not distinguish between leg and foot, looks exactly like the photo on the left. Look up radical 157 on google to see it. The "heel" is connected to a square by a line with a knee cap. I wonder if Japanese men are ashi men?

Elise said...

interesting post - thanks !

Hattie said...

You have Such an interesting mind! On my recent trip to Rome and Paris I noted that women have pretty much stopped wearing high heels or even low heels. Very few women wear them where I live; I haven't worn them since my stint as an office girl in the 50's.

marja-leena said...

Like Crow, in my youth I had a pair of shoes almost as high-heeled as these. They were uncomfortable to say the least, but when one heel broke off as I walked off-stage after a piano recital, I threw them away and said 'never again'. More modest heeled ones for special occasions came and went but I prefer comfort, after all a limp and a pained expression are not beautiful.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: Yes, I was aware that stilettos have other effects on women (and men, for that matter)but there's a limit to how much I felt it appropriate to reveal about my fetishes. I accept the word "perky" but can't help feeling it's probably euphemistic.

RHW (zS): It turned out to be Kangxi Radical 157. But this is Chinese, don't tell me you do that too... The sweeping brush strokes are genuinely lovely and I was seduced by them on my trip to Japan. The magazine I was editing had the initials MHN and I got someone to write me "MHN in Japan" in Japanese which I subsequently used as a header for the article.

Elise: A first comment, I believe. Sometimes the posts are interesting, sometimes irritating and sometimes they fall flat on their face.

Hattie: In fact it's a rather banal mind but luckily I'm surrounded by interesting stuff and I occasionally jump aboard for the ride. The key point in your comment goes unanswered - why did you wear high heels in the fifties?

M-L: Like Hattie, you don't tell us why. And what's this about a piano recital? Stilettos can't help with the pedalling so you must have worn them to show off your legs. Did the piano follow the stilettos into oblivion? As far as I can remember this is the first mention of this other talent.

The Crow said...

"I accept the word "perky" but can't help feeling it's probably euphemistic."

We'll let it go at that, then.

Verification word: bleat -- something I've been known to do now and again...though not recently.

marja-leena said...

Oh, I was a susceptible to the foibles in fashion in my youth, for just a while, isn't that what youth does? As for piano, I took lessons for many years, played the occasional piece at recitals but have not played for many years now, unfortunately letting it lapse too long. We have a piano still and the daughters have all had lessons. Youngest still plays.

Rouchswalwe said...

I dabbled in the Japanese characters derived from Chinese just enough to reach the third-grade level. But with my dictionary in hand, I am a black belt ~ hai yah!
Never have worn high heels, for I would stand over 6 feet tall.

Barrett Bonden said...

M-L: Foibles, yet, and for "just a little while". Come on, M-L, isn't there any foolish youthfulness left?

RW (zS): Ein böse Riese. Or to put it the American way, a natural-born basketball player.

Julia said...

High heels are still amazingly popular here; amazing because of the precariously beautiful sidewalks made out of miniture cobblestones. Walk a few steps in a stiletto and that stiletto is guaranteed to find a wedge somewhere and wobble.

I'm a boot person myself, and it is only partly because it starts snowing in Prague in mid October!

Barrett Bonden said...

The Booted Polymath. Hey, perhaps I could write a better novel about that.