Kanye West has many titles: rapper, visionary, father of North and Saint West, self-proclaimed God, and husband of Kim Kardashian. To some, he may also be an innovative force in fashion, as his clothing and footwear empire has sold millions around the world. However, his fashion expertise was under fire recently after an Instagram post from Kim Kardashian went viral. This sweet Easter shot of the Kardashain-West gang was overshadowed by Kanye’s footwear of choice: a tan boot with a slight heel. The heel caused such a frenzy online that what followed was an an outpour of criticism and debate on whether or not men are allowed to wear heels.
Historically, heels were first worn by knights at the start of the 11th century but soon became a way for the upper class to separate themselves from their lowly counterparts. The higher the heel, the more uncomfortable and impractical the shoe became. Therefore, the heel served as a sign of luxury and class and became fashionable amongst the upper class. The great king of France, King Louis XIV, was infamously short and stood at five feet four inches. He was able to make up his height and increase his desirability with his four inch heels.
Then with the Enlightenment, the function of clothing became more practical rather than fashionable. There were no more flamboyant reasons for individuals to showcase their heels, and their popularity slowly decreased throughout the 17th century as men’s footwear evolved. By 1740, high heels were exclusively worn by women as the enlightened men viewed shows as something foolish and impractical.
That’s the history behind why a lot of men don’t wear heels anymore. However, what does it mean for the modern man to wear heels? The 18th century ideals about women wearing heels have been maintained pristinely for the past three centuries, but why is it suddenly an issue for a man to wear a heel in 2017? Kanye West wearing heels shouldn’t be a controversy or even an issue; in fact, men should be allowed to wear heels as women do, rocking them all while making strides.
The problem comes from how modern society views a heel: they have evolved from a symbol of wealth to a symbol of female sexuality. Shaming a man for wearing heels comes down to continuing the tradition of solidifying the sexist of viewing heels as “feminine.” Instead, the heel should be seen as a symbol of sexuality for both men and women and a symbol of power.
Fashion is supposed to be a form of expression and a statement. If we limit this creative outlet with sexism, self-expression will become limited and equally become limited and individualism and self-acceptance will be stifled. It is an individual’s choice to put an article of clothing. Kanye West’s shoes shouldn’t have become a controversy as it only normalizes slut-shaming, body-shaming and, in this case, sexism. Making the world an accepting and hate-free place can start with something as small (or as high) as a slight heel on a pair of shoes. Maybe that’s what West was trying to prove to us after all.
Liv Chai is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.