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High-Heels: The Science Behind The Attraction
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High-Heels: The Science Behind The Attraction

High heels first entered human civilisation with the Ancient Egyptians who would wear low platformed shoes. Then popularly followed by the Persian Warriors in 499 BC who invented the taller high heel. However, the real deal came with French royalty, when Louis XIV made high heels synonymous with power; the higher the heel, the higher the status of the wearer. Why? Because high heels prevented one from walking properly and working. And High heels were exclusively a males footwear.

Millenniums later we arrive in the 21st century and high heels, now predominantly worn by woman are common and not just among the rich and famous. High heels are a part of every day life. There’s something captivating about the stance and stride of a women strutting in heels.. is it basic attraction or could this attraction be something more, let’s find out.

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High-Heels: The Science Behind The Attraction

The Dating Advantage Of High Heels

High heels remain fashionable, but uncomfortable, and can even lead to chronic foot damage. At first glance, it doesn’t make sense to favour footwear which harm and hurt feet. Plus render it difficult to run from ancient and modern predators.

But if wearing high heels makes women more attractive – that allows them to be more choosy over a larger number of higher quality males competing for their attention. This could explain the evolutionary advantages of this fashion statement.


How Wearing High Heels Affects Judgements Of Female Attractiveness – The Study

Psychologists Paul Morris, Jenny White, Edward Morrison and Kayleigh Fisher from the University of Portsmouth, in the UK, conducted a study entitled “High heels as supernormal stimuli: How wearing high heels affects judgements of female attractiveness.” The psychologists compared ratings of women walking in flat shoes, with the same women walking in heels, in order to establish whether or not walking in heels enhances the attractiveness of a women’s stride.

As women normally walk differently from men, pumps may help exaggerate the particularly feminine aspects of walking. What these shoes do is make women walk even more feminine-like.

Male stride involves greater velocity, longer stride length and slower rate. There are also differences in side swing. Men present more movement of the head and greater upper body side sway, whereas women display increased hip movement.

The stride is then studied using point-light displays representing the body as a series of markers placed on key landmarks on limbs. In these experiments, the perceiver is presented with a pattern of dots on a screen. Because all they are seeing are dots moving, any impact on preferences or attractiveness has to be something to do with movement patterns, and not static physical appearance.

Perceivers are remarkably good at making sense of the patterns of movement of point-light display dots. And are able to distinguish between male and female stride. Just looking at moving dots representing movement of the whole body, its reliably possible to label the walker as male or female.

Thirty second video clips of the point-light displays of walkers in heels and flat shoes were presented on a standard computer monitor. Perceivers found that for all walkers, attractiveness was rated much higher in heels compared with the flat shoes condition. Both males and females judged heels to be more attractive than flat shoes. Males and females also agreed which were the attractive and unattractive walkers.

The Study Conclusion

The authors of the study conclude that heels are an important part of the contemporary female wardrobe. The minimum number of high heeled shoes owned by those taking part in the experiment was four, and the maximum 25. The results indicate that the female walk is perceived as much more attractive when wearing heels than not. One, conscious or unconscious, motivation for women to wear high heels might therefore be to increase their attractiveness.

The bio-mechanical results are also consistent with the theory that wearing high heels makes women look more attractive by making them appear more feminine, as the effect of pumps was to exaggerate some sex-specific elements of the female stride including: greater pelvic rotation, increased vertical motion at the hip, shorter strides and higher number of steps per minute.

High heels exaggerate the sex-specific aspects of the female walk which could cause sexual arousal in males. The normal stimulus of a woman walking is exaggerated by the wearing of pumps, producing a supernormal stimulus.

But there have been numerous fashions that have not been congruent with an evolutionary model. For example, female shoulder pads in the 1980s emphasised a particularly male aspect of the body. Fashions by their very nature are fleeting, but trends that stand the test of time, such as heels, emphasise sex-specific aspects of the body. Other styles, such as shoulder pads, will reoccur infrequently over time, as they are poorly matched with our biology. So predicts evolutionary psychology.

The Bottom Line

Surprisingly, the visual aesthetic of the shoe is not really what makes pumps on a woman so attractive, that’s only a bonus. It’s the conscious or unconscious magnetism of the feminine stride which is so alluring. High Heels exaggerate the arch of her back and the circular motion of a woman’s hips, causing a male to enter into a primal frenzy. But it’s not only men who find a exaggerated feminine stride so attractive, it’s women too!

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1 comment

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