Once back in the mists of time — well, truthfully, last year — I went on an OKCupid date with a man who had more than a passing interest in my shoes. Before the date he emailed me to ask how tall I was. I had neglected to include this nugget of information in my personal info for two reasons: firstly, I don’t care about height, either my own or a man’s; and secondly, I can never remember. Seriously, I know I’m “average” and somewhere over 160cm — hold on, I’ll check! I have just measured myself and it appears I am just over 164cm or around 5’4”, which is pretty average for women in Ireland — and taller than I thought!
You’d think I might have remembered this because I measured myself last year and sent the information to my date. He was French, and I’ll call him Pierre. Pierre expressed relief. He was on the short side, he told me, but taller than me. “Fantastic! You can wear high heels!” he joyfully informed me. I was less than thrilled by this, since I hate high heels and only wear them when I absolutely have to.
On the evening of the date I considered wearing heels, but it was a cold and miserable day. We were meeting for a drink, and personally I don’t see the point in getting dolled up to the nines for the pub — or for a man I didn’t know, for that matter. Heels would also have required a taxi, as the pub was more than ten blocks from my bus stop. I didn’t fancy either wet or painful feet, or worse, both. Taking all of this into consideration, I decided to wear boots. Pretty cool boots, even if I say so myself, and sexy in a Nancy Sinatra “these boots are made for walking” way, but definitely flat.
For the next few hours, Pierre quizzed me about my shoe choice. How often did I wear heels? How many pairs did I own? Were any of my shoes designer? Would I wear heels if we went out a second time?
Perhaps Pierre had a shoe fetish, or perhaps, like his countrymen, he just found high heels a lot sexier than flats. A study conducted by the French social scientist Nicholas Gueguen found that men are more likely to respond positively to a woman if she is wearing heels.
Gueguen conducted an experiment with a young woman dressed soberly in a black suit and white shirt. She approached various men asking them to take part in a survey. When she was wearing heels, 83% of the men she approached said yes; when she was wearing flat shoes the number of willing men dropped down to 47%.
Gueguen was also interested in whether or not this preference would be noticeable in “mate selection” and he wasn’t disappointed. It took men on average 7.49 minutes to approach women wearing high heels in a bar. For those wearing flat shoes, it took 13.54 minutes.
Gueguen hypothesis seems to correct — most men prefer women in heels. But meh — so what? I prefer to walk in comfort, and not risk bunions, hammer toes, nerve damage, stress fractures and ankle sprains. I don’t care that only 47% of the men I might encounter would respond to a request for help, or that it would take me a whole six extra minutes to find a dude in a pub if I was so inclined. Men may prefer high heels, but lots don’t care that much — and those are the men I prefer.
It won’t be much of a surprise when I tell you I never saw Pierre again, which was just as well. He was quite entitled to his preferences as I am to mine, Either way, we were not a good match. He hated my favourite boots; I hated being quizzed about my sartorial choices, especially by a man whose hair could have done with a wash… I don’t care about shoes, or height, but basic grooming? That’s just good manners.