Following a woman in high heels up out of the subway is like discovering America. Following a woman in flip-flops up out of the subway is like riding the subway. - Rich Brookhiser
Women judge men by their shoes, that is no secret. Women colloquially say that they know how a man will treat them based on how much he cares about his footwear and (bonus tell: how he treats the waitress in a restaurant).
A new analysis in Archives of Sexual Behavior finds that it is not just women who make sweeping judgments based on shoes - men do it too, at least in France. Sociologist Nicolas Guéguen of the Université de Bretagne-Sud finds that men are more helpful towards women in high heels versus those wearing flats and that even the height of a woman's shoe heel influences how men behave towards her.
A new study finds that men will be more likely to help the woman on the left than on the right. Why? Because the woman on the left is in heels. Right image: sherber711, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Left image: Kenzas
In the image above,the woman on the left clearly needs more help so that is skewing the results of the high heels. What about in a more neutral setting? Guéguen tested in an environment that is really, really annoying to everyone - survey takers. Then the results were startling. Only 46% of men were willing to take a survey when asked by a woman in flats but high heels stole the show with an 83.3 % response rate. Chi square test revealed a significant relationship for high heels while medium and flats were not significantly different.
In the US, it is hard to imagine 83% of men stopping for a survey result but maybe being helpful to all women is just an American thing. This nice lady walked for 10 hours in New York City and got over 100 offers to help from strange men. That's an average of one offer to help her have a nicer day every 6 minutes. Critics of the white majority in the US may note that very few white men talked to her but that seems unnecessarily divisive. Males being helpful in New York City crosses cultural borders. Even women from Alderaan get offers to help, from male natives of other planets all over the galaxy:
Women seemed to be immune to heels on other women, even if they secretly judged her. When a woman dropped a glove, other women (for that part of the study, 180 men and 180 women were involved) were just as likely to help her whether she was in heels or not. Men clearly recognized a woman would have to bend down farther and risk back damage in high heels, so they helped her (by picking it up or notifying her) 93.3 % of the time. When men saw a woman in flats they remembered she was genetically engineered to be able to pick up her own glove and only notified her 62% of the time.
The third study was a little sketchier, timing how long it took for a man to talk to a woman in a bar in high heels versus other shoes. With only 36 young males over 3 pubs, saying that it took 13 minutes for a man to talk to a woman in high heels versus 7 minutes for a woman in flats is significant isn't really accurate. But you get the idea.
It leads to a chicken and egg question. Do men regard heels as sexier because clothing models wear them or do models wear them because men think they are sexier? Designers say they simply make legs look longer so even with stumpy legs, all women look better, but let's not get distracted by reason.
The results open up a whole new field of inquiry. What about a girl in high heels who uses the Jeff Zuckerberg dork walk gait versus a woman in flats who walks like Jessica Rabbit? Who would men be most likely to help?
Citation: Nicolas Guéguen, 'High Heels Increase Women’s Attractiveness', Archives of Sexual Behavior, November 19 2014, DOI:10.1007/s10508-014-0422-z