Click here to see the intro entry for this page. 🙂

do read the extracts below with a pinch of salt, as it is only from 1 book, doesnt represent Stiletto as a whole. :)

Disclaimer: the categories are decided by me, its for the purpose of grouping the extracts together. If you enjoy what you read, please go and borrow it from the library or purchase the book.

By: Caroline Cox, Mitchell Beazley


“The stiletto is the high heel in its most extreme, modern, and dangerous form. There’s even a surface missile named after it, the Raytheon Stiletto, which makes the association between death and the piercing quality of the stiletto knife and shoe.” (pp. 8)

“The payoff for stiletto wearer is increased height and a kind of super-feminity. At 10-12 centimeters (4-5 inches) it cancels out any height difference between the sexes, and in some instances has been used as a weapon with devastating results… The woman was charged with manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon – her shoes.” (pp. 12)

“By the late 1950s the stiletto was being worn by stars who had a reputation for being rather risqué – charismatic, rather knowing women famed as much for their tempestuous affairs in real life as on screen. Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardnerm, Jayne Mansfield, and the British Diana Dors transgressed the codes of respectable domestic femininity.” (pps. 75)

“The stiletto is a feminine weapon that men don’t have, but women come into the shop and they complain. They say “I can’t walk, I can’t run in these shoes!’ I say ‘Why run? In the reality of life, nobody’s running… If you walk in a certain rhythm you can watch the city, see the buildings, you see more of the landscape – and it permits men to stop you – otherwise you cross life without seeing it.” (pps. 160)


“Most women prefer to trip to hell in high heels than to walk flat-heeled to heaven.” (pp.7)

“To stand above confers an inherent power advantage.” (pp. 12)

“As the playwright George Bernard Shaw remarked. “If you rebel against high-heeled shoes, take care to do so in a very smart hat.” (pp.15)

“The girl with low and sensible heels is likely to pay for her bed and meals.” – Anon. , 1950s (pp. 17)

“You are flirting with danger when you buy high-heeled sandals.” Eileen Allen, The Book of Beauty (1961)” (pps. 55)

“Similarly, a passionate kiss followed by a close-up of a stiletto heel gently falling off a foot, then a fade-out, meant a very passionate interlude was taking place.” (pps. 75)

“Not all women can walk in high heels, though, as it requires stamina, determination, and training.” (pps. 160)


Invented in 1950s by Italian shoemakers, the spindle-heeled stiletto was assertively modern, releasing women from the utilitarian fashions of the wartime 1940s and launching them into a modern era of fashionable consumption.” (pp.7)

“In Italy, the period of 1945 to 1965 (now known as the Ricostruzione) was one of unparalleled economic and cultural change, a time of social and material revolution after years of Fascism. Following the Second World War, Italy underwent reconstruction abetted by massive economic aid from the United States which, in an attempt to boost postwar trade, was helping to regenerate large areas of the Continent. This was thus a favorable time for Italian industry and helped to strengthen Italian fashion as a brand in which shoes had always played an important part. Italian shoemakers, like French hairdressers, enjoyed an enviable reputation for their craftsmanship which had endured for decades and had spawned such global stars as Salvatore Ferragamo, “the Shoemaker of Dreams.” (pps. 57)

“Italian shoemakers no longer produced imitations of French couture styles, but were defining an aesthetic that was all their own. Using American techniques of mass production together with the craftsmanship of Italian luxury goods, Ferragamo created cutting-edge footwear for the international jet set, in turn establishing his own international reputation.” (pps. 58)

“As a re-branding exercise to help the country redefine itself as a centre of design innovation in the global marketplace after the Second World War it couldn’t have been more successful, and a process of dissociation began. Italy changed from a country indicative of Mussolini’s Fascist project to a land of glamorous dolce vita – the words “Italian design” were beginning to become synonymous with stylish living.” (pps. 61)

“In 1960 the winklepicker show with stiletto heel and an extreme point to the toe was heralded as a new teenage fashion. It quickly became a symbol of teenage rebellion, as easily decoded as the black leather jacket.” (pps. 62)

“In the 1990s, many women were still ambivalent about the idea of sexualized dressing, fearing being taken as an airhead at work and as a sex object ripe for exploitation when at play.” (pps. 137)

Its Not Smart

“These are shoes that blatantly contravene the original purpose of footwear, to protect the feet and aid mobility – stilettos are pretty uncomfortable, even painful, after a hard night of partying. Contemporary philosopher Marcel Danesi wrote in 1999, “If I watched people as one might observe animals in their natural habitats, one would soon reach the conclusion that human beings are truly a peculiarity. Why is it that some females of the same species make locomotion a struggle for themselves by donning high-heel footwear?” (pp. 11)

“However as Rita Freedman goes on to point out, “fashions that confer the power of added size nearly always inhibit movement. A gain in the hedonic power of display is generally offset by a loss in the agonic power to act.” A woman in stiletto heels may appear powerful and dominating, but she can’t do much more than stand there looking provocative.” (pp. 12)

“As Betty Page advised in her book On Fair Vanity (1954), “Shoes with heels of the right height, so that you can walk with grace and ease, are in far better taste than the smartest shoes with 4in [10cm] heels in which you waddle like a duck. And Eileen McCarthy in Frankly Feminine (1965) wrote,

“Heel heights should be right for you and right for the clothes you’re wearing. Moderate heels are best. A short woman in spike heels is as obviously compensation-conscious as a tall woman in flat-heeled shoes. When her heels are too high a short-legged woman tends to walk stiffly and rivet attention on the lack of length in her leg from knee to heel.” (pps. 47)

After 15 or 20 years of wearing a particular heel silhouette, your foot starts taking the form of your shoe,” says Steven Weinfeld MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. President of Manolo Blahnik, George Malkemus attests “When my Park Avenue clients in their seventies and eighties take off their designer shoes, their feet look exactly like their shoes.” (pps. 168)

In the 1980s and ’90s, Madonna’s style statements incorporated traditionally sexy garments, such as corsets and high heels, which she used to represent a woman in control of her sexuality rather than one stereotyped as a male sex object.

And The Celebrities Says…

“Subsequently, after her split from the Royal Family, Princess Diana cut a striking silhouette by appearing in all the right places in her towering Jimmy Choos… Actress Nicole Kidman made it clear she was still a force to be reckoned with after… by announcing she could now wear high heels… For both women, the choice of skyscraper stilettos was to give them a psychological advantage; they were noticeably “walking taller.” (pp. 12)

“In the United States the stiletto heel had been imported from Italy and was being worn by the sexiest of stars by the late 1950s. “I don’t know who invented high heels but all women owe him a lot,” murmured Marilyn Monroe whose Ferragamo heels with metal reinforcements were a significant trademark. Known from very early on in her career for a particularly sexy style of walking, she was asked to test for a Marx Brothers movie Love Happy in 1949. Hollywood writer Maurice Zolotow described how Groucho and Harpo “examined her, looking at her, she says, ‘like I was a piece of French pastry.’” Monroe didn’t have any lines to speak; the idea was that she would do the talking with her body:

“ ‘Can you walk?’ Groucho asked. She assured him she had never had any complaints. ‘But’, questioned Groucho, ‘can you walk so you’ll make smoke come out of my head?’ She walked. Just across the room, but it was enough. ‘She walks like a rabbit,’ said Groucho approvingly, as he brushed wisps of smoke away from his head.” (pps. 70)

“Even Sarah Jessica Parker confesses, “I’ve destroyed my feet completely, but I don’t care. What do you really need your feet for anyway?” (pps. 170)

Suck it in

“But as anthropologist Margaret Visser  points out, “their first purpose was to raise their owners, enable them to pose impressively, and stretch their legs so that their calf muscles bulged curvaceously out.” (pp.7)

“As anthropologist Margaret Visser notes, “It has forever been the male habit when sizing up the physical attributes of the woman for his eye to start at the bottom with her feet and shoes, and gradually move up the body column. Women have always known this, this is why they have such a loyal affection for high heels, so that the male eye gets off to an encouraging start and has reason to complete the bottom-to-top visual tour with admiration.” (pp. 15)

Skirts had been knee-length and jackets long, which, together with the wedge shoe and thick ankle straps, had made the legs look short and rather ungainly. Women were ready for a new look, a more sexualized form that emphasized the bust, waist, and hips. They were prepared to embrace a traditionally feminine figure, which highlighted the sexual zones of a woman’s body while at the same time, with its round-shouldered silhouette, had an air of submissiveness about it.” (pp. 26)

“there are not only new clothes but a new way of wearing them; a new way of walking, of standing. The new stance is a hippy one. Your hips become the most prominent part of your body. Your diaphragm above them is taut, so held-in it’s practically concave. Your shoulders are held well back. Your seat is tucked away to vanishing point … it’s a posture which is very much in tune with the hour.” (pp. 44)

Men are attracted by high heels. I know that when I wear a pair of 5in [12cm] stiletto heels a man is not only attracted, he is fascinated. Can you wonder that smart women wear the highest, slenderest heels they can obtain?” (pps. 50)

“The mastery of the 12cm (5in) stiletto heel became a badge of audacious femininity. By the end of the 1950s the stiletto encompassed everything that was right about modern style. It was sleek, sharp, and sexy with an aura of elegant menace, and as slender, tapered, and dangerous as the eponymous Sicilian fighting knife it was named after.” (pps. 79)

“The classic, closed-toe pump has developed a low-cut look in the so-called throat line, which means the shoe shows more of the cracks between the toes. The industry calls this ‘cleavage’ and many observers find this a sexy kind of look” (pps. 150)

“tried on a stiletto with low, low cleavage. She said ‘I just can’t have it. I show too much of my foot!’ She realized she was showing without showing and suggesting something that was totally sexual. This is the difference with my shoes, the difference between erotisme and nudity.” (pps. 153)

Its In The Head

“The celebrated sexologist Richard von Kraft-Evving made just this point in 1886: “The hierarchical principle governs not only predilection for smallness of foot, but also the desire literally and symbolically to lift it out of the mud, with high heels raising the woman visually above the common herd and at the same time suggesting that walking is a special and difficult, rather than commonplace activity for her.” (pp. 8)

“What constitutes the most lickable foot and shoe has been debated for generations, but across history and culture particular features recur. The foot should be dainty, perfectly formed, and, for many, tightly shod. The infamous bound foot of Imperial China, for instance played an important part in linking the foot and shoe with the carnal and can only be described as a cultural fixation. The “lotus foot” was the principal focus of male sexual ecstasy from the tenth to the early twentieth centuries, created by binding the foot of a female child from the age of five tightly from back to front with the four smaller toes pushed down under the ball of the foot. The forefoot and heel were then pushed together and securely bound until the bones had gradually ossified into place by the age of about eighteen. The tightly constrained lotus foot was considered the epitome of femininity, used in sexual games as both a phallic stimulant and substitute. It was lyrically described as having “divine quality” and “seductive attitude” and a mere glimpse could have men in raptures. Some tiny shoes, fashioned by the women themselves, have tooth marks in them after having been bitten during a night of passion.” (pps. 97)

“The new word was, of course, “power” – girl power. Love’s look was kidnapped and sanitized by the British pop group The Spice Girls, who came to wide public attention in 1996 and whose cheeky appeal helped to popularize a mass trend toward sexy dressing.” (pps. 138)

“Now you could dress in an overtly erotic way, yet still retain your independence. Transformed by “girl power”, girls across the world basked in their femininity as shopping was deemed a new, legitimate leisure activity; nail art and body glitter could be discussed at dinner parties, and the Wonderbra became female armor and the mark of a reconstructed feminist.” (pps. 138)

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