A new ballet flat emoji is stepping up the shoe game for women
Heels are falling flat.
The next emoji could be a royal blue ballet flat thanks to a fierce female who set out to diversify the stiletto and high heel-only shoe options available to text.
Palo Alto-based mom Florie Hutchinson, 37, a public-relationship specialist, submitted a proposal for the more comfortable shoe emoji to The Unicode Consortium Emoji Subcommittee, which will decide in November if it will implement the new feminine footwear. If successful, the ballet flat could strut its way to keyboards next June.
Hutchinson was inspired to create a better shoe emoji after noticing that none of the current emojis — a red stiletto, pink sandal and boot — reflected her own wardrobe choice, or any women’s, frankly.
“I noticed that all the female shoes had the gender stereotypical huge heels. I wanted to choose something that isn’t sexualized,” Hutchinson tells Moneyish adding, “It’s a bit of a rallying cry like ‘G–d dammit I don’t want to wear stilettos!'”
Hutchinson decided on the ballet flat over any other shoe style because she felt it was a more practical reflection of most women of all ages. When it came time to designing it for the proposal, she had one demand: “It couldn’t be pink or red.”
The heel emoji isn’t the only culprit of forced gender norms. Hutchinson has a bone to pick with the default swimsuit emoji, a cleavage baring-bikini, the pink shirt and frilly hats.
“When did we become so obsessed with pink or the need to reveal cleavage, or that they [women] need to have bows on their hats? It’s gender stereotypes from the 50’s just in a digital form,” she says.
While high heels have long been a staple in women’s fashion, with pressures to wear them in work dress codes or to be more attractive to men, fewer females are buying them. Forty-six percent of US consumers who have purchased footwear in the last year say they are willing to pay more for shoes that are comfortable, research firm Mintel tells Moneyish. And 37% of UK women purchased sneakers in 2016, compared to 33% who bought heels, according to Mintel. And overall, flat shoes are still the most popular kind of shoes purchased at 51%, with women’s fall boots (30%) and flat sandals (25%) following in fourth and fifth place after sneakers and heels, Mintel data shows.
Stars have also admitted to hanging up their heels in recent years. Designer and former pop star Victoria Beckham, famously known to strut through the airport in sky high stilettos, bluntly admitted last year: “I just can’t do heels anymore. At least not when I’m working. I travel a lot.” She even took a bow at her fashion show in Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. And sneaker sales in the US have reached new heights also. The athletic footwear industry grew 3% hitting $17.5 billion.
Others have openly rejected societal norms for women to wear high heels to work. British receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home for wearing flats earlier this year and started a petition calling for a law that would make sure no company could ever demand a woman wear heels to work. The petition garnered more than 150,000 signatures and attracted dozens of professional women to post photos of themselves on Twitter wearing flats.
There seems to be more a demand for flats on social media as well. The hashtags #flatshoes and #flats were posted on Instagram 5.3 million times, Hutchinson noted.
And the humble ballet flat isn’t ageist. The comfortable shoe has been popularized by the likes of Kate Moss and Helen Mirren.
“I hope that when my girls are slightly older it’ll teach them that if they see something they’re not happy about, they need to do something about it,” says Hutchinson. “This is just a baby step.”
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