Flats Are the Short Girl’s Middle Finger

Women were turned away at the Cannes Film Festival red carpet for wearing flats. But uh, do they not read MR? Flats are awesome…


I used to spend a lot of time several inches above the ground. It was painful.

I could never levitate or float or even jump high. I was not an invention of Roald Dahl. But I was very short and I was very desperate not to be, so I wore heels — often. I remember these years well: I am thirteen and on my way to a bar mitzvah in modest wedges. They leave a rim of angry blisters around each foot making it impossible to dance. I am fifteen, it is New Year’s Eve, and my heel breaks in a gutter on Third Avenue. I am seventeen, I just blew through my meager disposable income to own a pair of pumps, and when I put them on later, I’m in agony.

These heels — all of them — could not promise much. They did not come with fairy godmothers or plastic surgeons. But they did the trick for a while. They let me peek at adulthood. They convinced bouncers that I was old enough and family friends that I could sit with the grown ups. I would endure the pain all over again for that. It was worth it.

And then I stopped. It wasn’t supposed to be a political statement or the crest in a new wave of feminism; I did it because flats are cool. I did it because after I finally became at least a convincing hologram of a grown up, I didn’t want to try so hard to look like one.

We are told that tall women are not supposed to wear heels. They look more demure in flats. Feet planted on the ground, they blend in better in crowds — which is exactly why a statuesque woman in stilettos makes a special impact. Waltzing into a room in added inches and blatant bravado, she announces herself: she is taller than you and your brother and that potted plant and she does not give a fuck.

We are told that short women are the lucky ones. Heels flatter our calves and thighs. They elevate us. Josh Groban agrees: they raise us up. But heels cannot be for us the same sartorial middle finger that they are for our lanky peers. To make an equivalent statement, we need flats. A woman in flats can be simultaneously impulsive and graceful. She is not enslaved to Uber’s surge pricing or cobblestones or the patriarchy. When the right person asks nicely, she can walk home. And when she wants to leave, she can make a quick escape. She never tries too hard.

Effort is good and great and important. But control and pride are better. I have to imagine that the women who were barred from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this week would agree. They arrived in flats and were denied entrance. Heels are required on the red carpet, apparently.

Given that we live in a glorious age of fancy denim and white-tie jumpsuits and Jenna Lyons, what is in a dress code? What spells extravagance? Our dresses and heels and the tiny bags we carry are always a fantasy. Mine were, anyway. But is there now a different fairytale to tell? What should women wear on the red carpet? And when will Cannes force George Clooney into stilettos. This is the most relevant question. Let’s talk about it.

If flats are formal (and cool-wedding-appropriate) maybe that means flip flops are fashionable too. They’re certainly easier to pack if you’re going away this weekend and bringing a thimble of a tote. After all, you need to save maximum storage space for the wine.

Image via W Magazine

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • pointy flats look almost as good and will set you free. and kitten heels, mid height…

  • Hmstrgrrl

    Loafers and oxfords are my jam.

  • Flats on, heels in the purse! Or vice versa.


  • Charlotte

    Best comment on this I’ve read so far. I am only 1.58m and next time, which is probably very very soon, someone is asking me why I don’t wear heels often I have the perfect answer.

    When I first heard about this Cannes regime I was appalled. But I was wondering and excited as well to be honest… I’ve always said to my mother: It must have been so cool that you grew up in a world where pushing the sartorial boundaries was your hobby and sometimes part of a group culture you somehow got involved in.

    It sometimes feels like we have come to postmodern clothing age: we have all the perks but we are almost never truly shocked anymore. Which is a downside. When Lady Gaga showed up in an meat dress it reminded me of doing groceries that morning (need a psychological assessment for that I’m afraid).

    I hate that this happened in Cannes. But also torn between hating and celebrating the fact that we still, quite literally, have to stand our ground.

  • Christina

    Kinky flats, crazy colours, pointy, spiked, wicked fabrics! That’s the deal! Comfortable and sexy! Fully agree with the quick escape!

  • Even though I’m short, I love my flats. There are so many cute ones, and now that it’s summer, sandals get cuter with every season. Fashion rules are meant to be broken, right?

    xx Yasmin


  • Esther Levy

    As someone who is 5’3 but comes off as at least 3 inches shorter, I have all sorts of feelings towards this. Wearing flats to a formal affair is the epitome of DFAF(ing) in the best/most polite way possible.

    If Cannes knew what was up they’d be handing out slippers, not banning flats at the entrance. Tsk.

    • Kelsey Moody

      How funny– Im like 5’9″ but it comes off like Im at least 3″ taller!! The body dysmorphia that grows out of our insecurities is wild! When we go out on the town, Im in heeliest heels, youre in flattest flats, deal?

      • Esther Levy

        DEAL. Maybe I’ll even carry you on my shoulders. Who knows.

  • Leslie Hitchcock

    PREACH. My favorite time of year is the end-of-season sales, because I can gobble up designer flats in a size 6 for next to nothing (relatively) to my little 5’2″ hearts content, and wear them with confidence and pride of stature.

  • Cosi

    I absolutely cannot believe that I hadn’t yet heard about women in flats being barred from the Cannes film festival. Fashion choices aside, why isn’t this a bigger deal? Women choosing to wear heels is fine, but being forced to wear shoes that are uncomfortable, not to mention that can ultimately cripple and permanently damage your feet on a sex-based dress code is kind of insane. I thought we were living in 2015… Equality?

  • Rachel Coleman

    I’m not even 5’4 and I wear more flats than I do heels.


  • Elizabeth Rhodes

    Seriously enjoyed this.

    “she is taller than you and your brother and that potted plant and she does not give a fuck.”

  • Lua Jane

    That Cannes situation was rude, sexist and plain wrong. Heels are great, flats are awesome too, but it’s us, women who decide which ones we’ll wear. It’s up to our own will. Tall, short, whatever we are, it’s up to us, and us only, what we want to wear. On the other note certain flats, much like the Rochas one’s above, can be even more ellegant and festive then heels.

  • BK

    “The high-heeled shoe is a marvellously contradictory item; it brings a woman to a man’s height but makes sure she cannot keep up with him.” – Germaine Greer

  • Restless Blonde

    I love this post and totally agree. There’s no explanation in forcing women to wear heels. I am tall and I wear heels if I want to. But yeah – mostly I wear flats, not because I am mixed better in the crowd, but Because I want to.


  • Heels… flats… if you’re outfit works then who cares? Since when has fashion been “sole”ly defined by your footwear?

  • Anika Yael Natori

    I agree control and pride are better which is why my go to are my custom-made clogs: http://josiegirlblog.com/2015/04/20/clogmaster-update/

    Don’t judge until you try!

  • Bird

    OH MAN this angers me! How can Cannes can get away with that?! DO THEY SEE THE FLATS IN THESE SLIDES? All of them make my heart sing.
    This should be yelled about because SEXISM. Dress codes that imply that girls allow the male gaze are being yelled about now. Side note: I’m 5′ and I hate heels. Whoever tells me to wear heels somewhere can fuck themselves, because clearly they will not be getting fucked by any woman that stands her ground.

  • Tra

    “Effort is good and great and important. But control and pride are better.” I love this sentence! There are so many people who told me to wear high heels because I’m short but they don’t know that I am not ashamed of being short! I think the thing about shoes/ clothes is that you need to wear what makes you feel good. And to me, feeling good is about being comfortable, being in “control” and being proud of your own body type and height. I’m shorter than 5′ and I never feel the need to wear heels. p.s : short people are awesome! just look at Napoleon !

  • Blakey Bessire

    Clogs are the shoe mullet. Am I high am I low, can’t figure me out…. bingo, air of mystery.

  • Madsy

    The heck is wrong with the world? so now it’s fine to show up half naked but if you would like to wear comfortable shoes THATS the big no no?
    Yes we understand why we cannot wear flip flops to a red carpet event – but honestly this is where the Cannes festival organizers take themselves too seriously.

  • Molly

    I’m all for a dress code, but demanding women wear heels is archaic. Heels do not equate with being dressed up. A shiny set of oxfords or beautiful jeweled flats for a formal event look just as good, especially if like me you can’t walk in heels, in the words of Agador Sparticus from The Bird Cage “They make me fall down”.

    • Mattie Kahn

      Me, last night.

  • Julie Meowmeows

    Heels are who you aspire to be, a fantasy. Flats are who you are, the great reality that you live in.

    • Molly

      Well said!

  • Rochas flats are the best!
    Lots of love, xx


  • Marisa

    I’m definitely short but I love flats. They actually make me feel more powerful and grounded.
    Plus you can dance all night long and it doesn’t hurt one bit! x

    • This. The dancing thing. Good point.

  • The Reticulate

    AGH! Someone make dudes where heels as dress code and see how they like it! Heels are great when you don’t have too much walking or moving to do, and when you’re on a very even surface, but add in bricks and cobblestones and blocks on blocks of walking, and this is why I sold most of my heels and now live in oxfords and brogues.


  • Helena

    I’ve only worn heels a handful of times during my lifetime. They just don’t feel like ‘me’ (my therapist says it’s because I’m not 100% comfortable with my feminine side, which is true)! Yes, they make me taller, make my legs look super long and all that but how attractive can you actually look in something you feel uncomfortable in? I rock all sorts of flat shoes with pride AND I’m able to take long and fun walks with drunk friends around the city after a great night out.