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Culture

Killer outfits

Dress for the stares — but watch out for the stairs!

photo/Aaron Warshaw
Stacked like Bootzilla.
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Published 12/20/2000

“I fall all the time when I am drinking. I love my shoes and will face the danger ... it is worth the extra 3 inches I get.”

—Platform aficionado
Sally Riggs

The scene: Any woman, on any night, at any bar. She’s dressed to kill and she knows it; she relishes the stares that follow as she sashays about on the key to her slinky confidence, a massive pair of dangerously sexy platforms. She exudes tallness, poise, diva attitude to spare.

And then it happens.

Midway through her descent on the stairs, she doesn’t compensate for the enormous amount of heel, catches the stair and tumbles headfirst down the entire flight. Her aura destroyed she limps away, the culprit of her humiliation in hand.

This story rings a familiar, horribly embarrassing chord with every woman who’s ever worn dangerous shoes. Blame it on the Spice Girls for first breaking the “shoes so high your nose bleeds” look, but, like it or not, footwear these days is getting bigger, badder, and becoming a serious threat to the wearer’s physical health.

We’re not talking ’70s platforms; these new monster kickers make Kiss boots look like flats. For a wide array of the latest foot tortures, just stop in at your local trendy boutique — such as Incognito, where the average height of women’s shoe heels is around 5 inches. Some go as high as 8 inches, and a custom fetish Web site based in England sells a pair of pumps with astonishing 12-inch heels.

The trend first popped up in Japan (being the mecca of overstatement it is) where huge platforms were suddenly all the rage; consequently that country has had two documented cases of fatal car accidents due to female drivers being unable to brake properly because of massive footwear. And last year, a 25-year-old woman in Japan was found dead in her car from a skull fracture; authorities believe she fell from her 5-inch shoes earlier in the day.

Although there have been no highly publicized cases of shoe death here in the United States, chunky-shoed fashion plates are still limping en masse to emergency rooms. Tripping, slipping, stumbling and flat-on-your-face falls from trendy footwear are causing injuries from sprained ankles to serious fractures and torn ligaments that require months of expensive and painful physical therapy.

Julie Amicucci is a physician’s assistant in the Prompt Care unit of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. She estimates she treats as many as 15 to 20 cases of shoe-related injuries a month, sometimes as many as two a day. She believes the numbers will rapidly increase soon, due to the weather. It’s hard enough to trot around in 6-inch boots as it is — but on ice? Forget it.

In addition to foot injuries, Amicucci reports seeing wrist sprains and fractures, facial contusions and even broken noses, all from women tumbling forward and attempting to break their fall.

Podiatrist Michael Gerber of Advance Foot Care in Troy warns that danger also lies in the long run; even if you manage to prance around in your Prada pumps without incurring any falls, you will pay the price later. He says he treats a number of women in their 30s for back and knee problems, due to the shoes they favored in their wanton youth.

Gerber advises nothing higher than a 2- or 3-inch platform, and sensible flats on icy days. He says sky-high platforms throw off the wearer’s center of balance, making it much more difficult for the fashion slave to accommodate for normal trips and stumbles. Gerber has a teen daughter whom he has forbidden to wear big shoes; he jokes that on occasion she sneaks out of the house when her shoes exceed the 2-inch limit he has instated.

Shoes aren’t the only high-risk accoutrement these days, either. Although they are nothing new, the fashion item known as “phat pants” — extremely wide-legged baggy jeans favored by raver kids — have caused more than a few minor injuries on occasion. Another custom Web site sells phat pants with leg circumferences of more than 100 inches. How do you walk in those things?

Not very well, apparently. Jon, a former security guard at St. Andrew’s who preferred not to give his real name, comments on his favorite time-killer when working the now-defunct Three Floors of Fun night; the techno theme was on the very top floor, so all night Jon rejoiced in watching clubgoers trip up and down the stairs, on account of their excess pant material.

Eastern Michigan University graduate student Sheri France reports catching on fire due to her wide-legged jeans. While crammed in at a concert, someone flicked a cigarette which landed in the cuff of her phat pants; unbeknown to France until she looked down to see her entire leg ablaze.

Eighteen-year-old Kimmy James of Grosse Pointe says she knocked one of her front teeth loose after tripping on the edge of her phat pants while going up a flight of metal stairs. “Thousands of dollars of dental work from braces, ruined by a $50 pair of pants,” she says.

Even if you can manage the stairs without tripping on your shoes or pants, you’re still not safe. Glittery makeup hit the stores and runways a few seasons ago, spawning an arsenal of sparkly creams, eye shadows and gels. However, these enticing bits of sparkle can also prove quite horrific.

Polyurethane glitter is actually quite sharp, and can scratch the cornea of the eye, causing a painful infection. The shiny bits are even more dangerous and painful when the wearer has contact lenses.

So, the lesson to be learned? Casts, splints, broken noses and swollen, pus-filled eyes are not sexy. When dolling up for the holiday festivities, be cautious.

If you wear glitter, don’t go overboard.

Before going out, road test your outfit at home on the stairs to get the hang of it; walk slowly and keep an eye out for possible obstacles.

And remember, friends don’t let friends drink and wear 8-inch heels. Your next pair of shoes could be killer.

Sarah Klein wears big shoes, and occasionally falls down. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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