Is there a social bias towards women in heels?

Is there a social bias towards women in heels?


I think we all instinctively know this to be true, but what does the science behind it say.

Nicolas Guéguen thought he’d get to work documenting the subscious bias men have towards women in heels in his paper High Heels Increase Women’s Attractiveness, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Guéguen ran three experiments involving young French brunette women (apparently blondes have an unfair advantage in the attractiveness stakes) and dressed them identically in black suit skirts with a white blouse. The only difference being their footwear which consisted of flats, 2 inch heels and 3.5 inch heels.

The women approached men between the ages of 25-50 to ask for their assistance with a survey on gender equality. After every 10 people they approached the women would swap over their shoes. Not surprisingly, 83% of men agreed to help when 3.5 inch heels were worn however, only 47% were interested when flats were involved (shock horror).

So, does this same bias run through women? To test this, Guéguen had the ladies approach both men and women to answer questions about their eating habits. At least we can say the gentlemen were consistent. When the 3.5 inch heels were worn, 82% of men stopped to help, whereas only 42% were persuaded to assist when flats were worn. So...what about the women? I don’t think any women would be surprised to read that ladies assisted in the survey only 33% of the time (we’re busy) irrespective of the footwear worn.

Guéguen also tested how men would respond when a lady dropped a glove. Again, hats off to our male counterparts for yet again being consistent. Men chased down women in heels to return the glove 93% of the time whereas, only 62% did when the lady wore flats. At least more than half of the men involved proved to be chivalrous.

Lastly, Gueguen wanted to test whether men were more likely to pursue a women in heels than flats.  He positioned women in bars wearing the three aforementioned heel heights and sat and observed. On average, it took 7 minutes for a heel wearers to be approached whereas, it took double that time for a woman wearing flats.

At the end of the day, are we really surprised by these findings?

Perhaps the morale of the story is, if you’re seeking the attention of men, you may want to think about your footwear before stepping out however, if you’re more interested in women...wear whatever footwear you want!


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