Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label High heels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label High heels. Show all posts

Thursday, March 15, 2018


I’ve been seeing articles much like the one below for pretty much all my adult life.  Yes, high heels are sexy, yes most men like to see women in high heels, yes quite a lot of women like wearing high heels, but we know that they’re bad and wrong, unhealthy, symbols of sexual oppression and whatnot.

A stroll along Hollywood Boulevard on a Friday or Saturday evening would suggest that not every woman in town has got the memo, but obviously this isn’t really a walking issue.   Nobody wants women to walk miles in their high heels, it’s enough just to strut across the floor and perch on a bar stool.  It’s enough just to slip on the Jimmy Choos and pose around in the boudoir.  I know that human sexuality is a savage garden but even so I find it hard to believe anybody ever asked a woman to pose around the boudoir wearing sneakers.

And now as fate would have it Gal Gadot has become the new face of Rebok.  According to her Twitter feed she’s "pumped."  Apparently $10 million dollars is changing hands.

On the other hand, when Gal Gadot is at an event celebrating “the power of women,” different imperatives apply.  It's a minefield, isn't it?

Oh, and I did come across this while digging in the archive for something completely different, a quotation from Alexandra Schulman of British Vogue, "If god wanted us to wear flat shoes, he wouldn't have invented Manolo Blahnik" although if you ask me I think Manolo may have lost his mojo in recent days:

Friday, June 7, 2013


My pal Steve Kenny has just been in Rome, walking in, or at least among, the ruins, and also doing a fair amount of walking on cobbles, which he reminds me can be very hard work indeed.  And he sent me this picture (mild shades of Garry Winogrand) and an accompanying email:

“For the benefit of your readers, here's a pic of a girl showing how you shouldn't dress when exploring ruins and walking on cobbles and uneven ground.  It was in the Forum - she gave up after 50 yards and went back to the car.  She looked nice but everyone was laughing at her.”
I’m not sure that I’d have laughed at her. I think I might well have cheered.

Anyway, while trying to find some supplementary information about walking in Rome, I came across an item saying that a new law has been passed in Rome forbidding tourists (and I don’t suppose it only applied to tourists, but I think the idea is that the citizens of Rome have more class) from eating pizza, ice cream and whatnot as they walk the streets of the ‘centro storico’ of the Eternal City. 

An activist named Viviana Di Capua says, “This is a way to re-educate people, especially tourists visiting Rome in awe about how to behave in this city. We’ve let standards fall.  At the moment tourists can do anything they like in this city. We need to restore respect. It’s just a first step – a lot more needs to be done.”  Who could argue with a woman named Viviana?  And actually I suspect that if you looked like Audrey Hepburn you might still get away with it today.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


 I’ve been doing some walking in Manhattan.  I didn’t go there specifically to do any walking but, as I’ve said many times before, New York is a place where people end up doing a lot of walking, whether they intend to or not.  And I think there’s something suitably Zen about this, that some of the best walks happen when you don’t intend to do a “walk.”

It was when I lived in New York that I first started carrying a camera with me full time, sometimes walking the streets pretending to be Garry Winogrand, or someone.  Of course, New York explodes with quirky, unexpected, eye-catching details, and characters. Even so I was slightly surprised to find this sign on a street in Hell’s Kitchen, on a day in mid-May when the temperature was pushing 80 degrees F.

It reminded me of my favourite bit of New York street art, this wonderful faux Ed Ruscha piece - not quite a mural, since it's not painted directly on the wall  - at the Gaseteria at the corner of Houston and Lafayette. 

Obviously it didn’t always have a pile of snow in front of it, but having taken the picture, that’s the way I always remember it. There’s still a gas station on the site, but it’s no longer the Gaseteria, just a BP station, thriving as far as I could tell, with many yellow cabs using it, and the faux Ruscha has gone - perhaps even to a loving home.  This is not surprising and it would have been absurd to "preserve" it in perpetuity, but still, I sort of miss it.

My wife and I were walking down Fifth Avenue and we were discussing the women and high heels in New York.   She said that she wasn’t seeing any New York women in high heels.  This surprised me.  When I lived there my impression was that the streets were full of them, and then as if to prove my point, up ahead I saw a very well-dressed woman wearing extremely high heels, a woman, it must be said, who looked amazingly short, which was perhaps why she needed the heels.

And then, a split second later, I realized this was a “famous person” – Nina Garcia – one of the judges of Project Runway (yes, yes, my wife sometimes makes me watch it) and also Creative Director of Marie Claire Magazine, whatever that might involve. Nina was struggling to find the right shiny black SUV that was there to take her wherever she was going next.  There were quite a few of them parked in the vicinity, and the streets and traffic of New York were unrelenting.  The first shiny black SUV she went to wouldn’t let her in.  She did some yelling, both at the driver and into her cell phone.  I reached for my camera. 

I got a shot, though alas I couldn't get the shoes.  I felt like Garry Winogrand, or maybe Ron Galella.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It’s been a strange week here in Los Angeles.  The temperature hit 100 degrees on Wednesday, and although I may be a mad dog and an Englishman even I know my limits.  In addition to that, I’ve been demolished by some hideous bug I must have picked up on the plane, and even getting out of the chair to walk to the bookcase has seemed like quite an expedition.

So, thus immobilized, I have been reading Joan Didion’s forthcoming memoir Blue Nights, and watching a rough cut of a forthcoming documentary titled Betty Page Reveals All.  You might think that Betty Page and Joan Didion were some way from being soul sisters, and yet, and yet …

It's hard to think of Didion without picturing those famous photographs showing her with her Corvette, and outside her house on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.  She just doesn’t look like a woman who does a lot of walking. 

But she also lived in New York for long periods of her life, and most people in New York are forced to be walkers one way or another.  Her book The Year of Magical Thinking contains a few references to walking in the city in general and Central Park in particular, and she mentions at one point that she stops wearing sandals because they catch in the pavement and starts wearing Puma sneakers instead.  I had never tried to image what these Didion sandals actually looked like, but if I had done I’d have assumed they might be at best “sensible.”  

But now I read in Blue Nights, “I had lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.  I had no doubt that I would continue to wear the red suede sandals with four-inch heels that I had always preferred.”  If any pictures of these preferred sandals exist I, alas, have never seen them.

Did Joan Didion really walk the streets of Manhattan wearing red suede sandals with four-inch heels?  Or is that further evidence that she didn’t really do much walking at all?  Maybe she just posed around in them.  There are very few women who can walk happily in four inch heels, though Bettie Page was one of them.

In the documentary, someone points out, and footage proves the point, that Bettie Page could walk every bit as easily in high heels as out of them.  There was no wobbling or teetering for Bettie, though there was no shortage of strutting.  True, in the movies she didn’t walk very far, often confined to a very small stage or set, but you felt she could have covered huge distances should the need have arisen.

It may have had something to do with her hips.  They were extremely broad in relation to her waist and maybe that gave her added stability.  She also looks as though she had very strong legs. And she was initially discovered while walking on the beach at Coney Island, though whether in heels, I don’t know.

Joan Didion, to all appearances, does not have broad hips or strong legs, though she has always been light - eighty pounds for most of her life - a little less now, or so she reports in Blue Nights.  I’m told that being light makes walking in heels much easier too.

Bettie Page ended her modeling career abruptly in 1959.  There were good reasons: a Senate Committee was investigating the world of S&M and bondage photographs, she was getting older  - mid 30s - though it seems she’d always lied about her age anyway, and whether cause or effect, she also became a devout Christian.  She “disappeared” and had a hard life that included periods of madness and incarceration.   But she could never leave the pin-up world behind her, or rather it would not leave her, and in the end – with some help from Hugh Hefner – she decided to embrace her cult status, though (with a few late exceptions) she chose not to be photographed.

It was Joan Didion who wrote, in A Book Of Common Prayer, "You have to pick the places you don't walk away from."