15 hottest products of 2008: Skyscraper heels

Once upon a time, towering high heels could only be found in the pages of men's magazines like Exotique or Bizarre, where women strapped themselves into 5, 6, 7, or even 8-inch heels. To the extent that these outrageous shoes existed in the real world, they had to be made-to-order from companies that specialized in the fetish trade. In 2008, however, skyscraper heels, such as Christian Louboutin's 5-inch Lola pumps or Lanvin's cone heels have been burning up runways and punching holes in red carpets. From Victoria Beckham to Gwyneth Paltrow, fashionistas have been pushing the trend ever higher: in fact, some reports state that Louboutin is experimenting with an 8-inch heel. By comparison, standard stilettos are about 4 inches, and anything over 3.5 inches is considered high.

When Americans think about weird self-mutilations, the conversation usually turns to the so-called "Giraffe Women" of Burma, or the lip plate-wearing Mursi of Africa. Every so often, however, American culture takes a weird left turn, making it possible to talk about the strangeness of our own practices. Like 1990's facial-piercing craze or the subsequent primitive tattoo trend, skyscraper heels demonstrate that Americans are far from immune when it comes to bizarre beauty practices.