On his eponymous NBC sitcom, comedian Jerry Seinfeld once memorably compared women’s fixation on shoes to men’s fixation on breasts. “Men are obsessed with cleavage. Women are obsessed with shoes,” he said. “It’s the same for both sexes. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen these things. Every time these objects are presented to us, we have to look. We cannot not look.” The fashion site Mode has created an excellent opportunity for gawking—at shoes, not breasts—with a new video called “100 Years Of Fashion: High Heels.” This is the latest in Mode’s series of retrospective videos in which the last century is summarized through one extremely specific facet of popular culture. Before, it was wedding cakes. Now it’s shoes. In particular, the high-heeled ones that can cause neck, back, and shoulder pain in the long run. But, goddamn, don’t they look fabulous?
As usual in these Mode videos, this is a rapid-fire montage in which whole decades glide by in mere seconds while the music style changes every few seconds from jazz to rock to hip-hop in order to mark the passage of time. The colors and styles evolve from decade to decade, conforming to the shifting aesthetic standards of various time periods, but the heels remain high and impractical throughout. It’s all weirdly impersonal, with the camera staying focused for three minutes on women’s feet and calves. Up to this the ’80s, the model has generally worn nondescript stockings or gone bare-legged. But the 1980s woman sports those lacy, ankle-high socks that Madonna used to wear. The model’s hand reaches into the frame to pick up a scrunchie, and her chunky bracelets briefly come into view. So many memories.
At the end, a caption suddenly appears onscreen: “What’s next?” The shoes, which resemble black scaffolding, are meant, one supposes, to be the high heels of the future.