Marilyn Monroe once said that if you give a woman the right shoes, she can conquer the world; that may be a bit of a stretch, but a new study published in a Springer journal has shown that if a woman wants attention or help from a man, high heels definitely go a long way.
Previous research has already shown that our physical features, as well as the color and shape of our clothes affect what others think of us. However, even though it seems pretty clear that high heels are generally associated with sexiness and fashion, only one previous study looked at how high heels impact men. Now, Nicolas Guéguen of the Université de Bretagne-Sud in France has shown that high heels really do have power over men, making them more likely to notice and help women.
He set out to test his theory and made relatively simple field experiments. In the first experiment, women in flat shoes and subsequently high heels asked people to complete a survey and noted that generally, men complied more readily when she was wearing high heels. The second experiment was even more obvious – if a woman drops a glove on the street while wearing heels, she’s almost 50 percent more likely to have a man lift it up for her than if she’s wearing flats. Also, he found that women in high heels in bars were much more likely to get hit on than women wearing flats.
“Though it’s a relatively small cross-section, this study is very significant since the results are clear and consistent,” said Paris-based sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann, who was not involved in the study. “In a relation of seduction, men are very attracted by a woman in heels as she looks taller, more sexually confident, sure of herself, with a lengthened silhouette.”
However, the finding showed that the size of the heel had a very strange impact on men’s willingness to help. German female volunteers wearing 0.5cm (0.2 inches) or 5cm (2 inches) or 9cm (3 1/2 inches) high heels received the same attention from men when it came to lifting the glove, but when it came to answering the survey, the results were very different. The situation involved a woman asking passers-by: “Excuse me, sir. We are currently conducting a survey on gender equality. Would you agree to answer our questionnaire?” Flat heels got a 46.7% answer rate, medium heels a 63% rate and the highest heels a whopping 83% success rate from the men. It’s still not clear what role the heel’s size plays.
Guéguen suspects that because sexy female models often wear such shoes in the media, men have started to associate the wearers of high-heeled shoes with those having sexual intent.
High heel footwear was used extensively in the Ottoman Empire and Persia for horseback, but they only entered Europe in the 1500s, and they were popularized heavily in the 19th and 20th century in an erotic context. Nowadays, high heels are often associated with night clubs and fashion shows. From a medical point of view, high heels pose a lot of problems, causing back pain and increasing the risk of ankle injury. Prolonged usage can lead to shorter calf tendons.
Journal Reference: Guéguen, N. (2014). High Heels Increase Women’s Attractiveness. Archives of Sexual Behavior. DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0422-z