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Women's Heel Heights Indicators of Economic Trends

By Edited Jan 4, 2016 1 0


Woman with High Heels

It's fairly common knowledge that women like to keep pace with the latest fashion trends. However, it probably is not common knowledge that fashion trends can sometimes take on a role of prognosticator.

An IBM study that was particularly focused on social media and fashion blogs revealed some interesting and unsuspected results. The study suggested that when women's shoe fashion trends toward lower heels, that may be a signal of an improving economy. IBM, in the study, tracked the trends in women’s heel heights. The study showed a seeming correlation between the heel heights of womens's footwear and the stability of our economy. 

The Current Economic Conditions

The Bureau of Economic Analysis defines gross domestic product as the output of goods and services. Quarterly statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that the United States' gross domestic product increased annually at an approximate rate of 3.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. In the third quarter, however, the gross domestic product increased by only 1.8 percent, suggesting an upturn in the economy from third to fourth quarter.

In addition, the analysis of personal income in the United States for February 2012 showed  an increase by $28.2 billion, and disposable personal income increased by $18.9 billion.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis of private wages, payrolls from goods-producing industries, and payrolls from services-producing industries showed significant increases.  Such increases would seem to suggest that the economy is making a slow, but steady recovery.

Relationship between Women’s Heel Heights and the Economy

During the Great Depression, the low-heeled women’s shoes of the 1920’s were replaced by high heels and platform shoes. During the oil crisis of th 1970's. there was a trend from the low heels of the 1960’s back, once again, to the higher heels and platform heels. During the dot-com crisis of the 1990’s, women's low-heeled shoes were replaced by significantly higher heeled fashions and stilettos.

According to some consumer product experts, during a downturn of our economy, women's shoe fashions trend to higher heels. Some experts surmise that this may be because women turn to more showy clothes, shoes, and accessory fashions as as a form of fancy, whimsy, and escapism.

Heel heights trended to their greatest heights in 2008 and 2009, just as the economic crisis was beginning. Since fashion magazines and fashion bloggers are now showing a return to lower heels, the IBM study seems to suggest that the trend toward lower heels could be an prognosticator of a gradually improving economy.



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  1. Christina Cheddar Berk "“As Women’s Heels Head Lower, Is the Economy Heading Higher?”." USA Today.com. 18/11/2011. 6/4/2013 <Web >
  2. Mary Conway "“When the Economy Goes Down, Heel Heights Go Up”." WXYZ.com. 21/11/2011. 6/4/2013 <Web >
  3. Barbara Thau "“Women’s Heels Fall Out of Step with Economic Outlook”." Daily Finance.com. 21/11/2011. 6/4/2013 <Web >
  4. "“U.S. Economy at a Glance”." Bureau of Economic Analysis. 5/4/2013. 6/4/2013 <Web >

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