I thought this was going to be fun. I thought I was going to be bouncing around with a smile on my face and a puppyish spring in my step. Running up escalators, swinging around lampposts, that sort of thing.
High heels are the enemy, in the popular narrative: they ruin your posture, make you miss your bus, generally shore up the patriarchy. Besides, how hard can it be to give them up now, when flat shoes are having such a fashion moment? Trainers with ballgowns at Chanel, sandals with organza skirts at Burberry, leather slippers with wide trousers at Celine: flats outnumbered heels on the catwalks in 2014. If Cara Delevingne can wear trainers and chunky flat boots on the red carpet, it would surely be a breeze for me to spend a week without heels.
Or so I thought. Fun, and a breeze. Well, friends, it was neither. Not fun, because it turns out that I don’t wear heels because I have become institutionalised in my slavery to fashion, or through simple force of habit, or because the alternative isn’t smart enough for my job. Turns out I actually like wearing heels. (Or at least I don’t like wearing flats. Which amounts to the same thing.) And not easy, because heels give me a presence – or at least confidence, which is perhaps the same thing – which does more to make my life easier than the heels do to make my life harder.
Life lesson number one learned this week: fashion doesn’t really matter. Heels aren’t really about fashion, they are about attitude. They are about glamour, in the original sense of the word, meaning enchantment and mystery. Without heels, I don’t just feel short, I feel sort of – flat. And the fact that flat shoes are really on-trend right now does not, at any point, make me feel less dowdy.
Day one, I had high hopes for black Nikes with a full, midi-length circle skirt that I usually wear with strappy, lace-up sandals. At the shows, lots of editors wore midi skirts with trainers, maybe a silky T-shirt and a biker jacket, and it looked fabulous. So I tried it. My 11-year-old son – fairly robustly inoculated against sartorial vagaries, having grown up in a house with a minimum of three shades of leopardprint on the coat rack at any one time – told me, “That skirt looks really weird with those shoes.” Children always want their parents to look as normal as possible, I told myself. (Another recent conversation with Alfie, when I experimented with a blanket coat. Alfie: “Are you actually wearing that? In the house, or outside?” Me: “Yes, darling, outside. It’s fashionable!” Alfie: “Oh God.”)
But then I got on the tube and “that skirt looks really weird with those shoes” was written all over the faces of my fellow, grown-up passengers. And suddenly knowing it was fashionable did not feel like much consolation. I felt like one of those people who sat out the millennium celebrations, insisting that the real date to mark was in fact 31 December 2000. They may have been technically right, but they were still basically being idiots.
Days two and three were more successful. I pored over streetstyle blogs and decided that the way to make flat shoes work for me was to turn up the volume on the rest of my outfit. I have a cropped and brightly coloured fur jacket that I love in theory, but always end up taking off, because over a look-with-heels it’s just a bit, well, much. It had its most successful outing yet with an old pair of Vanessa Bruno trousers, a white T-shirt and flat leather Chelsea boots. Then I dug out a pair of over-the-knee flat suede boots, which I have had for years but always ignored, because if it’s an over-the-knee boots kinda day, why dress like Dick Whittington when you could look a lot more foxy in heels? And I loved wearing flats with skinny jeans and last year’s Isabel Marant for HM crazy-coloured cardigan-coat.
But every day that my heels stayed on the ground felt to me like a day without ambition. A day of meh. I wanted to raise my sights, just by that crucial three inches. Cindi Leive, the 5ft 2in editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, told the Wall Street Journal recently that while she wore flats off duty, she preferred “to assume my work height for the office”. Once you’ve got used to those extra three inches, it’s hard to shrink back. They say that flat shoes make you more approachable. I am a 41-year-old woman of distinctly average height – I have approachability in spades. What I need to put a spring in my step is a heel.