Heels are no longer the domain of women as more girls wear them, writes Meena Sreenivasan
GONE are the days when little girls wore flat Mary Jane shoes or Bubblegummers. They are now seen in strappy sandals with heels.
When I was about 5 years old, the only shoes my mum bought me were Mary Janes. I had three pairs, a black patent one, another in white and one more in pink. I wore them with white ankle length socks with a lace trim. For special occasions, they were worn with my knee-high stockings.
Then in secondary school, for events like school concerts, some classmates wore shoes with a bit of heel. They wanted to be taller than their classmates and boyfriends. I yearned to wear them too, but when I tried using the line “my friend wears them”, I was reprimanded by my mum.
Things have changed now and we see a growing trend in girls as young as 4, wearing heels.
If there is one thing that Disney princesses have taught these little girls, it’s that the sparkling and glittering shoes and clothes look good.
Young girls idolise Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Alice (in Wonderland) and of course, Barbie.
These characters play a big role in influencing the girls who want to imitate their mum or what they see on television. But the well-being of their feet needs to be taken into consideration as well.
With a growing demand, shoes or sandals with heels are found everywhere, from local night markets to supermarkets and department stores.
Buying high heels for kids is very controversial as they are deemed not suitable for children.
There are good reasons for that too. High heels are not comfortable and they have an adverse impact on children’s physical development. Doctors will tell you that.
However, this is true only if a child wears high heels on regular basis.
High heels for kids are just an option for special events such as a wedding or a party. Every little girl wants to look elegant and fancy, just like her mother when it comes to special occasions.
Surely allowing her to wear such fancy heels for a couple of hours, once or twice a year, won’t cause problems. On the other hand, it will make her feel special.
Barbie Store is a haven for little girls to go shoe shopping with their mums as it offers a variety of open and closed shoes with heels.
Sharon Tang, assistant store manager of Barbie Store in Mid Valley Megamall says their shoes have a heel height of 4cm and the demand for them is very good.
“We have open sandals and closed shoes for girls between 4 and 11 years old and they are very popular.
“There is a demand for these shoes because nowadays, more and more girls love Barbie as a companion, a friend or someone to emulate.
“We have more than 20 designs and they cost between RM15 and RM70," she adds.
Just like Barbie Store, Parkson Corporation Sdn Bhd carries a range of shoes for girls between 4 and 11. Its top selling shoes with heels include the Barbie and Disney Princess collection, NYC shoes, Emilio Valentino and Evado which are priced from RM39 to RM80.
Merchandising manager of Parkson children, baby, stationery and toys department, Kerry Yee, says: “Shoes with heels for girls are targeted at parents who are looking for fashionable and premium shoes for their children, for occasions such as wedding dinners or tea parties.
“Most of the time, the child picks up what she likes and at times, they come with their dads to buy their shoes. I believe they get their inspiration from movies, their mothers and friends as to what’s in trend. Generally, girls love to make up and dress up like their mums.”
MUMS SPEAK OUT
Mother of 7-year-old Nur Elysa Syafirah, Norshahidahbariyah Abdul, 44, believes that her daughter is inspired by Barbie, Cinderella and other Disney princesses.
“Elysa loves Disney movies and Barbie designs like all girls her age and I give in to her whims when it comes to shoes. I don’t think there’s any harm in her wearing them for a few hours, despite the heel height.
“She only wears heels when we go out for a special occasion or an outing so I am not too concerned about the danger or restrictions they pose to growing feet.
“She’s been wearing them since she was 5 and has about six pairs. They cost between RM30 and RM50 a pair.”
Meanwhile, Surianna Wilkins, mother of 5-year-old Ayesha, has different sentiments. She says her daughter wears only ballet flats or flat sandals.
“She wears shoes with heels only when she plays dress-up or puts on her princess costumes at home. She doesn’t wear them outside or for long hours. At her age, it is very bad for her posture to wear any kind of shoes with heels and she doesn’t ask for them either. She’s quite content with her ballet pumps which she loves.
Surianna adds: “I think it is bad for parents to encourage their children to wear heels. For my own daughter, I will not even consider it. Why do we make them grow up so soon?
“I’d rather Ayesha be her age and enjoy her age rather than run around in heels and adult clothes,” she says.
Four-year-old Gauri K adores Barbie and all its collectibles. So it came as no surprise to her mother, Kavita, 32, when her daughter cajoled her into buying her a pair of Barbie-design sandals when they were at their neighbourhood pasar malam.
“Mothers wear heels so I guess daughters will want to imitate their mums. I wear heels and Gauri wants to dress up just like me. Little girls grow up so fast. Furthermore, these days you can hardly find shoes without some sort of heels,” she adds.
But what have you to say about kids of celebrities who set an example for other children their own age?
Take for instance, Suri, daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, who wore high heels when she was barely 6.
It has been reported that Suri has a shoe collection of over 130 pairs and that she has her shoes custom designed, including high heels. I must admit the little girl has a keen eye for designer shoes, with one of her favourite designers being by Marc Jacobs.
My take is that parents give in to whims just to stop the persistent whining.
But you can set a good example for your daughter by setting rules that she only wears heels for special occasions and clearly marking them as “grown up” occasions so that she understands that heels are part of a certain outfit that she isn’t ready for yet.
Of course, you can simply say “no high heels till you’re 15 (or at least a certain age)” and mean it.
When I was a kid, I was told I could not wear certain type of shoes, clothes or makeup until I was 17 and that was just the way it was.
MyOrtho Foot and Spine Healthcare Orthotic Centre (MyOrtho)’s orthotist and clinical director Edmund Lee says wearing heels at an early age is a health concern and should not be encouraged for growing feet. For health reasons, he says girls should avoid heels until age 12 or 13.
“At the age of 5 and up till 10 and 12, the bones are still forming. The print is forming. You can get some shortening of the tendons in the heels.
“So you really don’t want to let them spend more than a little time every week in some kind of heels. I know that seems like a long time if you have a 6-year-old who is desperate to wear heels but it will pass.”
He advises parents to talk to their child about high heels and discuss the health-related concerns if she is insistent. High heels are fun but besides cramping the toes, they can also change the body posture and eventually lead to backaches, not to mention potential ankle sprains.