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Why Are Some Women So Obsessed With Shoes?

Priti Devi of Decorator’s Notebook tries to explain her obsession for shoes.

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Shoes, physiologists say, tell a great deal about a woman’s personality, age and economic status.

My husband jokes that we travel with too much luggage everywhere we go. Even to the African bush, at least one of the bags is solely (pardon the pun) for my shoes. My explanation is a girl must be prepared for anything, and that means the right shoe for the occasion.

I don’t believe there is a man out there who can understand why his lady needs so many pairs of shoes in different designs. Some ladies love shoes so much that they must buy the latest pair of black stilettos when they have 15 other pairs of a similar colour in their shoe closet, as well as multiple pairs each in beige, silver, gold and a multitude of additional hues.

It is only in the early 1800’s that women’s and men’s shoes began to take different shapes. During that period both men’s and women’s shoes had low, two inch heels, were made in ornate and embroidered fabrics and both the right and left side were similar in shape. Then in the 20th century, after World War II, with the advance of technology and the availability of different materials, women’s shoes changed dramatically and became more sophisticated and shapely. Higher, slimmer heels emerged and luxury shoe designers emerged, becoming stars in their own right, famous for their craft. By 2015 women’s footwear sales had reached a staggering US$ 25billion.

The Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo was one of the earliest international shoe designers for women’s footwear, having started his career in Italy in the 1920’s. The vastly stocked Ferragamo Museum in Florence, houses his extensive archive of almost 15000 shoe designs, many made for famous international celebrities and Hollywood stars. The oldest shoe in this museum, the Labyrinth was made in 1927 and is a beautiful hand-made shoe in embroidered silk . Marilyn Munroe, Sophia Loren, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor were among his long list of A-List Hollywood clients. The French shoe designer, Roger Vivier, while working for Christian Dior in the 1950’s, introduced the stiletto in 1953 as a classic three-inch heel, which has remained a favourite Parisian style for the elegant woman even today. In 1954 Roger Vivier raised the height of the heel to 8cm and the craze for the high-heeled stiletto began.

Today, famous shoe designers like Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, Walter Steiger, Stuart Weizman have branded shoe stores in cities across the globe. And yes, there are gorgeous shoes in every colour, shape, height and hue to make every woman’s heart race.

No other television series has given women’s shoes the enormous fillip as the most ‘powerful’ accessory in a woman’s wardrobe, than the 2008 television series “Sex in The City”. The TV series teamed up with famed Spanish shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, for its phenomenal collection of fabulous, sexy women’s shoes that complemented the endless fashion forward outfits that made “Sex in The City” such a hit. The feature film ‘The Devil Wears Prada”, artfully divulged the critical role a perfect pair of high heels plays in boosting a woman’s confidence.

Shoes, physiologists say, tell a great deal about a woman’s personality, age and economic status. In a study of shoes published in the ‘Journal of Research of Personality’, researchers found that volunteers were able to accurately reveal specific traits about a woman. Expensive shoes they assessed, belonged to high earners, flashy and colourful footwear belonged to extroverts and practical and functional shoes generally belong to agreeable people, ankle boots fit with more aggressive personalities and uncomfortable (plain) looking shoes were worn by calm personalities associated with cerebral individuals like academics.

So what is the explanation behind women and their obsession with shoes?

Psychologists have studied this shoe obsession in women for decades and here are some interesting findings:

1. Beautiful shoes attract the opposite sex. High heels make women’s legs appear shapelier. Women in heels stand up straighter and taller, making them feel sexy and flirtatious- we don’t hear men complaining.
2. Being taller makes a woman feel more powerful. Feeling taller gives a woman greater confidence- once she feels this sensation, she feels empowered and psychologist’s say, once she has experienced the euphoria of being empowered, she is addicted to her heels.
3. Shopping for some women can be a compulsive disorder! Shopping is also pleasurable and releases adrenaline and the pleasure neuro transmitting dopamine, which makes shopping such an enjoyable pastime for women.
4. Buying the latest shoes for many women, is driven by the need to be accepted by the “tribe’”. Many women feel a sense of inadequacy if they don’t have clothes and accessories that are considered “in”.
5. The fashion victim. Not having the latest designer heels makes her feel she does not don’t fit in with the fashionable set.
6. Revenge purchases- for many women, going shopping for shoes acts as a “pick-me-up” and a way of getting back at a significant other if they have had an argument or are unhappy.
7. Designer sales- many women buy hugely expensive designer shoes simply because they are marked down during sales. The bargain price makes them feel their purchase is justified!

But whatever the reason, I still believe no matter how many pairs our shoe closets currently hold, there is always room for one more!

Priti Devi is the Founder and Owner of