Sky-High Heels or Low-Key Flats? Kendall Jenner and Laura Harrier Take on the Great Shoe Debate

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Much seems to be on everyone’s minds as of late, but as we reemerge back into the world at large, one of the things perplexing Vogue editors is the matter of shoes. Should we return to our pin-thin stilettos, or stay cozy in heel-less slides and sandals? For our June/July Issue, we asked Kendall Jenner and Laura Harrier to take on both sides of the issue in a dazzling series of portraits shot by Joshua Woods.

Meanwhile, back at the Vogue offices two of our editors, Naomi Elizée and Willow Lindley, seem to have a clear bias: The former is ready to jump back into the swing of things in towering heels, while the latter intends to keep her feet planted firmly on the ground. Read on for their (very partisan, very opinionated) takes. And head here to shop all the shoes you see.

The choice of elevation can be centered on attitude, ease—or something intangible. Harrier (far right) pairs an edgy Versace blazer, crop top ($1,595), and pants ($2,295; all at versace.com) with a studded-ringed stiletto by Givenchy ($1,595; givenchy.com). Jenner, meanwhile, appears the yin to her yang in a full leather Alexander McQueen look and a pair of spiked flats ($730); all at alexandermcqueen.com. Fashion Editor: Gabriella Karefa-Johnson.

Photographed by Joshua Woods, Vogue, June/July 2021

High and Mighty

I’m not afraid to say it: I miss wearing heels. When I mention this to my friends, they always ask one simple question: “Why?” When I can get away with wearing my pajamas and my fuzzy house slippers almost anywhere without anyone taking a second look, why am I dreaming of the day when I can slip back into my treasured Sies Marjan platform heels before starting my journey from apartment to train and, finally, to work? I’ll happily throw on a pair of flats for a quick run to the bodega down the street, and I own a couple of sneakers to work out in, but before the pandemic hit, you would always find me in a heel, no matter the height—from a four-inch boot to a kitten, if it had a heel, I wore it.

It all goes back to my mother, who, when I was growing up near Miami, taught me the art of getting dressed and sparked my interest in fashion—something I never got a chance to thank her for because of her passing last year. My mother loved to wear heels, especially whenever she and my father stepped out to one of the many Haitian parties our family and friends would throw. We had a ritual together: I would help her pick an outfit for her night out while I tried on her many shoes and used her room as my runway. When she wore my favorite pair—these diamanté strappy stilettos—I could feel her energy shift and her confidence skyrocket. My mother showed me that there is a certain force you can channel when wearing certain things; to this day, I feel powerful—indestructible, even—when I throw on a pair of heels.

Versace blazer, crop top ($1,595), and pants ($2,295; all at versace.com) with a studded-ringed stiletto by Givenchy ($1,595; givenchy.com).

Proenza Schouler dress; proenzaschouler.com. Bottega Veneta wedge mules, ($1,500; bottegaveneta.com).

In high school, my friends and I would race home after school to dress up in our latest vintage finds, some of which were taken straight out of our mothers’ closets. We would do photo shoots in our backyard to create content for our Lookbook pages. (Lookbook.nu was our Instagram of 2008–2010, where you could post outfits and seek out inspiration from other creators.) My first fashion heel to debut on my page: none other than the infamous Jeffrey Campbell Lita platform lace-up ankle boots. Where did I plan on wearing them? The thought didn’t even occur to me—I simply marveled at the fact that I towered at six feet three inches in the five-inch heel with a two-inch platform. I wasn’t afraid of the height—I embraced it. I felt, quite literally, on top of the world whenever I wore them.

Now I find myself in the same situation: lusting after heels with absolutely nowhere to go in them. I’m currently two credit-card payments away from taking the plunge on the latest Amina Muaddi x AWGE collaboration heel—you know, the ones that wrap up and around to the top of your thighs—and am about to convince myself that I need the yellow mesh stretch heels from Bottega Veneta (I already own them in green).

After a year of constant changes, I’m desperate for a return to some kind of normalcy. Heels are familiar; they’re nostalgic. I’ve always felt like my higher self when I’m in heels, and, truthfully, I just want to feel like myself again. And if that means giving up my fuzzy slippers? Bring it on. -NE

Jenner and Harrier seek new altitudes in dueling pairs of Versace platforms (Jenner’s, $1,125, and Harrier’s, $1,295; both at versace.com). Jenner also wears a Dolce & Gabbana cardigan (dolcegabbana.com) with a MM6 Maison Margiela skirt ($460; maisonmargiela.com). Harrier is in a top by Dior (dior.com) and a Markarian skirt ($995; markarian-nyc.com). 

Photographed by Joshua Woods, Vogue, June/July 2021

Celine by Hedi Slimane jacket, crop top, and shorts; celine.com. Loewe sneakers; loewe.com. 

Photographed by Joshua Woods, Vogue, June/July 2021

Grounding Myself

Some people are born ballerinas, while others are graced with a normal level of general coordination. Some of us, though, are not so lucky. Walking in a straight line can prove problematic for me—something that’s been a running joke in my family since I was a child. “My little ballerina,” my mom would call me. “Isn’t she a graceful swimmer?” my dad would say. “Like a fish—better in water.” At 5’ 10” (a height I’ve been growing into since I was in middle school) and with the name Willow, the phrase “big tree, fall hard” is something I’ve heard, let’s say, more than once.

Though I’ve always been a little embarrassed by my height, when I started working in fashion, developing my own sense of style meant coming to terms with my stature. Not only did I actually feel short backstage at a handful of fashion shows, but I fell in love with flat shoes, and as Vogue’s accessories director, this devotion has only deepened. It’s the immense variety that I’m delighted by—brightly colored ballet flats, classic loafers, patterned mules, shiny Beatle boots, and metallic gladiator sandals that wrap all the way up the leg… the list goes on.

On Laura: Champion sweatshirt; champion.com. Louis Vuitton sweater and shorts; louisvuitton.com. Tory Burch sneakers, $228; toryburch.com. On Kendall: Celine by Hedi Slimane jacket, crop top, and shorts; celine.com. Loewe sneakers; loewe.com. 

Champion sweatshirt; champion.com. Louis Vuitton sweater and shorts; louisvuitton.com. Tory Burch sneakers, $228; toryburch.com. 

Photographed by Joshua Woods, Vogue, June/July 2021

I grew up in a world where wearing high heels—from a pump for work to an evening sandal—was a part of being a woman. But I’ve found that there is a simple elegance to the flat shoe that is thoroughly modern. They bring everything down a notch, there is a pair for every occasion and every style—and for people of every height and age. Plus, let’s face it: They’re comfortable.

On Laura: Blumarine top and skirt; blumarine.com. Roger Vivier mules, $2,050; rogervivier.com. On Kendall: Bottega Veneta dress; bottegaveneta.com. Upcycled by Miu Miu x Levi’s jacket; miumiu.com. Roger Vivier pumps, $1,750; rogervivier.com. 

As we move toward a post-lockdown world, I take few things more seriously than comfort—and, with comfort, freedom. Flat shoes let me run through the streets of New York day-in and day-out. They let me walk over the Brooklyn Bridge on my way home after a long day of work, music blaring in my headphones as the city opens up like the opening credits of a movie. Heels, for me, feel unsteady, and while I love to look at them from afar, I not only find flats just as satisfying—I also appreciate having my two feet planted firmly on the ground. 

Trust me: In my case, that’s probably safest for everyone. –WL

Hair, Lacy Redway

Makeup, Grace Ahn