Hemlines are so over. The latest way to chart economic trends via women's fashion is farther south: heel height.
The Christian Science Monitor reports on research by high-heelologists at IBM. Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert at the company, explains, "Usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up — as consumers turn to a more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape." But right now, at least according to IBM's analysis of blog and social media posts about shoe trends, heels are about to go down. Does this mean a real economic recovery is in the offing? Perhaps — or maybe consumers are just buckling down for the long haul. Says Davis, "This time, something different is happening — perhaps a mood of long-term austerity is evolving among consumers sparking a desire to reduce ostentation in everyday settings." Bring on the flats and beige sack dresses!
Ladies' fashions have been used as economic indicators for some time — in addition to hemlines (supposedly shorter when times are good), there's the lipstick index, which posits that cosmetics sales go up when the economy tanks (this has since been questioned). One study suggested that beauty standards change with the economy too, finding that Playboy models got heavier during hard times. And a Times article last year posited that a recessionary mood called for older, sturdier male models too. Given how subject they are to cultural mores, it's no surprise that our beauty standards change depending on the economy. But are these changes predictable enough that we can spot a coming recovery in blog posts about heels? I'm not that optimistic — I think after years of recessionary teetering, ladies' feet are just tired.