06/08/2012 10:25 am ET Updated Jun 08, 2012

From High Heel to Thigh High: Power Shoes In Pop Culture

The past four years have seen a rise-literally-in outrageous shoes. Prices and heel heights have skyrocketed. No-heel platform booties-versions have been designed by Alexander McQueen and Giuseppi Zanoitti and worn by Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Victoria Beckham-are just the latest extreme "it" shoe to emerge at a time notable for its stark relationship between functionality and favor (the less functional the shoe, the more celebrated it is). The success of wildly vertiginous and expensive shoes in the aftermath of the recession (in November 2009, the New York Times reported that shoe sales had climbed 7.8 percent year-over-year) opened up a conversation about whether shoes that require consumers to alter their strides and empty their wallets are debilitating or empowering. Are Zanottis, Louboutins, and Manolos (and their mid- and mass-market counterparts) our era's version of Chinese foot binding, or are they power? A look back at shoes in pop-culture history reveals that the answer is complex.

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