Why would a woman choose to clamp her feet to a pair of fuchsia patent bricks costing nearly £900?
That’s the price of the latest celebrity footwear fad — Valentino’s sky-high Garavani Tan-Go platforms worn by a slew of A-listers including actresses Anne Hathaway, Zendaya and Lily Collins, as well as singer Dua Lipa.
Amanda Holden wore them on the Britain’s Got Talent red carpet last month, while actress Florence Pugh made headlines when she teamed the style with a nipple-revealing tulle gown. So, was I woman enough to take Hollywood’s latest shoe craze for a spin?
I’m no stranger to an absurdly high heel. From Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Tribute sandals at 10.5 cm to Louboutin’s ‘So Kate’ stiletto, which boasts a vicious 12 cm spiked heel, I’ve often spent money I couldn’t afford on footwear that made me totter like a newborn foal.
And yet, impractical, painful or downright dangerous as they sometimes are, vertiginous heels make me feel transformed like no other look can. It’s not just the added height or the feeling that my legs look endless. To me, heels are powerful, sassy and adventurous.
No stranger to an absurdly high heel, Lisa Hilton felt fabulous in the Tan-Go platforms but found them incredibly impractical to wear
Mega platforms have a long history. They were worn by male actors in Ancient Greek theatre, while in Japan they were employed by geishas to elevate the hems of their delicate silk kimonos from the street.
In 18th-century Venice, courtesans wore chopines, a block platform which sometimes rose as high as 20 in, requiring wearers to be supported by a maid on each side.
Platforms obviously enhanced visibility, while the clatter of the soles also drew attention to the wearer. Often an indicator of status in society, signalling that the wearer did not have to engage in physical work, they also had a practical bent.
Working women in Europe, from the medieval period to the 19th century, inserted their indoor shoes into ‘pattens’, a high wooden case for the feet, to protect them from mud and damp.
By the 20th century, the platform’s assertive glamour was loved by Hollywood. Marlene Dietrich had them custom made by designer Moshe Kimel, while Judy Garland’s were constructed from cork by Salvatore Ferragamo.
In the 1970s, they were as essential to the glam-rock look as face paint and glitter, and were worn largely by men — from David Bowie and Elton John to NYC’s ultimate glam-rockers Kiss.
Amanda Holden (left) wore them on the Britain’s Got Talent red carpet last month while Vanessa Hudgens (right) wore them at the Valentino fashion show during the fashion week in Paris in March last year
Since then — bar a brief 1990s revival by the Spice Girls in the form of ‘platform trainers’ and that catwalk tumble in 1993 by Naomi Campbell in a pair by the late Dame Vivienne Westwood — outrageous platform heels have been in the fashion shadows.
But no longer. Today, in fact, they feel just right. A bit frivolous, undeniably sexy, but also unsubtle and determined — the perfect footwear in which to stride towards the future with confidence.
But despite my love of the very high heel, I am daunted at the sight of them. They are just so big. At 15.5 cm, they are essentially a gargantuan Mary Jane — the style worn by Alice in Wonderland when she falls down the rabbit hole and eats the cake that makes her grow to an enormous size.
Teetering along a red carpet is one thing — but is the Tan-Go trend remotely plausible in the real world? I decided to find out. Once I’ve struggled into them, I feel as though I’ve been magically stretched to supermodel proportions . . . at least until I try to walk.
Years of practice have made me feel pretty assured when it comes to running for the proverbial bus in heels, but the Tan-Go is different.
Bit frivolous, undeniably sexy, but also unsubtle and determined — heels are the perfect footwear in which to stride towards the future with confidence. Pictured: Lisa Hilton, left, and Dua Lipa, right
Ashley Park attends the Grand Reveal Weekend for Atlantis The Royal in Dubai while Florence Pugh makes an appearance at the Valentino Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 show in Paris
The block heel forces my body forward, while the weight restricts my gait, producing a hoofy clomp rather than a sexy swagger.
The sole has almost no padding and the leather is so stiff that after a few minutes I can no longer feel my toes. The ankle strap is also incredibly flimsy, considering how much shoe it has to support.
Nevertheless, I admit they look kind of fabulous, and after an experimental totter around the studio, I’m ready to be convinced. Out on the street, I realise there is no way mere civilians can wear them. The Tan-Go feels like a death trap. Every step I take across an uneven paving stone brings me one step closer to a broken ankle.
Experts have warned that the shoe’s extreme shape puts wearers at risk of the ‘ballet break’ — a stress fracture caused by the foot sliding sideways off the inflexible sole. Anything speedier than a saunter is impossible, and I find myself collapsing onto bollards, railings and the occasional pedestrian before I’ve gone even 50 metres down the street.
The Tan-Go may work as the ultimate ‘car to bar’ shoe, although I’d approach the bar part with caution. Perhaps my attempt at Dry January might have lasted longer than a day if I owned a pair — a single cocktail in them could prove lethal. As for dancing . . . forget it.
Given the choice between being dowdy or being ridiculous, I would always choose the latter, but the Tan-Go also feel oddly frumpy. Yes, the added height is empowering, but the shape is clumsy rather than elegant. Wearing them makes me feel childish, like a little girl clip-clopping around in her mother’s heels, rather than a polished and sophisticated woman.
The Tan-Go also negates whatever outfit you put them with — they’re such attention-grabbers. They’re fashionable, but I’m not sure I’d want to wear a pair of shoes that risked turning me into a literal fashion victim.
Heels may be one of the most transformative tricks at a woman’s disposal, yet all I could think about while wearing them was plaster casts and crutches.
Unless grabbing headlines is the plan, I’d give the Tan-Go a miss. Fabulous they may be, but they’re really not much fun.
Anne Hathaway at Valentino’s show and Lily Collins at the special screening of season 3 of Emily in Paris