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The price of designer shoes is rising, so watch your step

16 April 2012

How much is too much to spend on a pair of designer shoes?

Laura, New York

As the bard of Greenwich Village, Bob Dylan, said himself: "How many mortgages should a woman take out to buy a pair of Louboutins? Yes and how much is a reasonable amount to spend on a proper coat? Yes and why are once relatively affordable labels such as Miu Miu and Marc by Marc Jacobs so gosh darn expensive nowadays? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind. And do you accept American Express?"

If only Bob had asked me. I could have saved him a lot of trouble and spared the world from hearing that tedious hippy-dippy song, Blowin' in the Wind – truly, what that song is to Dylan, Imagine is to John Lennon.

Designer shoe prices are an interesting phenomenon. At the risk of sounding like the Old Lady of the Hills, it really wasn't that long ago that one could buy a pair of designer shoes for, say, £250. Yes, that is a lot of money but it is downright pocket change compared with what they cost now, verging on the four-figure mark, even soaring past it in the case of the fanciest of Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent doo-dads.

One can get very cross about this and spin out all manner of theories about what such inflated pricing says about women. Were I a Freudian, maybe I could knock out a theory about how this clearly proves that rich men are bad in bed if their economic equals of the other gender need to seek out such ridiculous forms of sensual compensation. But I'm not, so I won't.

Without wanting to upset the cliche applecart here, contrary to what Sex and the City suggested about women and shoes, despite being a female-type person, I am not all that fussed about shoes. This is because I cannot walk in high heels and don't understand how anyone can; thus I don't understand the fetishisation of them. It's like how I hardly ever drive and therefore don't give a damn about cars, their appearance, pricing and so on.

Then one day last week, something … happened. I chanced to be walking past a fancy shoe shop and a pair of hot pink stilettos were in the window. The world paused.

I was like the grandmother in that 1997 Stella Artois advert, gazing longingly at the pair of red shoes, only for her doofus grandson to buy them for her and then callously exchange them for a glass of overpriced beer. Well, not having a grandson myself, I was forced to rely on myself and myself alone. Reader, I bought them.

I can't tell you, Laura, how much I spent on them because my father has me on Google alert and if he saw what I forked out for a pair of shoes, he would probably ground me. Let's just say that most of the individual pieces of furniture in my flat cost less than those shoes and leave it at that. I do love them … However, as I discovered on their one and possible only outing, I really, really cannot walk in them. It is a miracle I am writing this at all today considering how close I came at one point to breaking my neck while wearing them: "Here lies Hadley, killed by her shoes, because she's not just an idiot, but a klutzy idiot."

This is the real issue to consider when deciding what to pay for a pair of shoes. For some reason, the most expensive shoes most women own are the ones they wear the least. In other words, their fancy-schmancy party shoes. When of course, it makes more sense to spend the most on shoes you wear the most, such as a good pair of comfortable but smart flats that work with dresses and trousers. Incidentally, this is also a rule one should apply to clothes, buying party dresses on the high street and spending that little bit more when you want to on dresses, skirts and trousers you can wear every day. I have a couple of daytime dresses by Marc by Marc Jacobs that are over a decade old (ie back when the label was affordable) that I have worn at least a couple of times a month since I bought them, and they still look good.

Thus, spend whatever you like on shoes, Laura, just check that it works out on a cost-per-wear basis, and, judging by the way shoes get more expensive every year, get them sooner than later. After all, as the man formerly known as Robert Zimmerman would say, the prices they are a-changing.

Post your questions to Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask.hadley@guardian.co.uk

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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