Women's Heels Fall Out of Step With Economic Outlook

Shoe trends are poised to buck some well-heeled conventional wisdom.

Historically, women's heel sizes reach new heights when the economy is down. But come winter and spring, we'll be seeing more women in kitten heels and flats, according to new data from IBM (IBM).

The findings are based on a very modern arbiter of trends: influential fashion bloggers.

"A couple of years ago, the recession was greeted by higher heels -- an escape into fantasy. But most nations are still in the doldrums economically," Dr. Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert with IBM, tells DailyFinance.

Now a community of bloggers says that heels will be getting lower over the next two seasons. "What might be happening is that prolonged bad news makes people feel like acting more demurely, so heel heights come down," Davis says.

A trip down shoe/economic trend memory lane shows a different trajectory.

In the 1920s, low-heeled flapper shoes gave way to high-heel pumps during the Great Depression, IBM notes. Decades later, platform shoes took center stage during the economic downturn and oil crisis of the 1970s, as women moved away from the low-heeled sandal trend of the late 1960s.

And after the dot-com bust of 2000, Sex and the City-influenced stilettos stole the spotlight from the low, thick heels of the 1990s that reflected the grunge look.

But if the bloggers' latest predictions bear out, flats could be the shoe of choice during a lengthy economic downturn.

To come up with these findings, IBM first scoured billions of social media posts. It then winnowed those sites down to what it considered the most influential online bloggers. These aren't traditional experts who work in the footwear industry, but shoe enthusiasts who monitor fashion trends and have a big following, IBM says.

One of those bloggers, Rachel Yeomans, editor in chief of TheWorkingWardrobe.com, says runway trends, fashion editorial coverage, conversations between shoppers on her site, as well as chatter on Linkedin, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube and question-and-answer web site Quora, suggests that "people are talking about" kicking up their lower heels, she says.

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