Men Don High Heels, but Maybe Not for Long

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Reports have been floating around for more than a year. Hairy legs atop 4-inch sticks. Bulging calves coming out of Bottega Venetas. Wedges, platforms, even stilettos being worn by -- gasp -- men.

Johnny Weir rocks them. So does Derek J, the Atlanta hair stylist made famous by Bravo's "Real Housewives." New York and San Francisco boast growing groups of glam-footed guys. Los Angeles, too: A New York Times report filed from there last week has kicked up the notion that high heels for XY chromosomes are the new hot thing.

Trends aside, men have been wearing heels to make a statement for years. In April, dozens of dudes pushed into pumps for the University of Alaska's fourth annual "Walk a Mile in her Shoes" fundraiser to benefit female sexual assault victims. A similar event in San Antonio, Texas. this month supported victims of domestic violence.

But now, fashion insiders are noticing guys strapping stilettos onto their gams for entirely aesthetic reasons.

"What's partly propelling it is the fact that men have become more comfortable with their feminine sides and are less afraid to show that, especially since high heels literally elevate you from the crowd," said Michael Musto, culture critic for the Village Voice.

Historically, it's not unprecedented. As the Times pointed out, heels were de rigueur in pre-Napoleonic France. Men of all stripes paired platform shoes with their bell bottoms during the 1970s. The latest iteration finds guys in shoes built for gals.

"It's the girly fascination," said celebrity stylist Philip Bloch. "These men can appreciate the heels for their artwork."

Bloch pointed out that women co-opt menswear all the time. Take the boyfriend jean, the baggier, rolled up cousin of skinny, boot-leg and flared styles. Loafers, tuxedos, fedoras and ties have all, at varying points, found a home in the women's department.

For now, men buying heels is a trend without numbers. But, pardon the pun, it's got legs.

"It's still too small of a trend now to make it on the radar and there's still not enough people that will allow themselves to be counted as purchasing that product," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the market research firm the NPD Group. "But we will, by next year, be able to quantify it."

Cohen billed the trend as "part of the new migration of consumer openness." Indeed, if there were ever a time for men to feel comfortable slipping on a pair of Manolos, it's now. In the past year, bullying became the enemy, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed and New York legalized gay marriage. If Lady Gaga serves as an example, androgyny is in.

But then there's the physical factor.

"Once they dig their feet into a pair of six-inchers and realize how incredibly awkward it feels, I think most guys will run back to flats," Musto said, musing that the most flattering high heel for a man "would probably be an open-toed one for a quick exit."

Still, even if the trend only sticks around as long as it takes to develop a callus on the ball of of a foot (for the uninitiated: it doesn't take very long), Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador of Barneys and author of "Eccentric Glamour," applauds men attempting what women have endured for centuries.

"It's the same as gay marriage," he said. "Why should straight people be the only ones who suffer?"