Usually women's heels stay high during a downturn; perhaps not this time. Analysis of social media in 2008-11 showed that discussions of increasing heel height peaked towards the end of 2009, and declined after that.
ARMONK, NY, - 17 Nov 2011: An IBM (NYSE: IBM) computer-based analysis of billions of social media posts predicts an intriguing change on the horizon in women's shoe fashions, with heel heights- currently in nosebleed territory - poised to decline. The IBM project highlights the predictive capabilities of social media analysis as a source of valuable insight that can help drive business strategies and results.
"Usually, in an economic downturn, heels go up and stay up - as consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape," said Dr. Trevor Davis, a consumer products expert with IBM Global Business Services. "This time, something different is happening -- perhaps a mood of long term austerity is evolving among consumers sparking a desire to reduce ostentation in everyday settings."
A look back at the last 100 years of shoe fashion trends reveals that heel heights soared during the most prominent recessions in U.S. history. Low-heeled flapper shoes in the 1920s were replaced with high-heel pumps and platforms during the Great Depression. Platforms were again revived during the 1970s oil crisis, reversing the preference for low-heeled sandals in the late 1960s. And the low, thick heels of the 1990s "grunge" period gave way to "Sex and the City"-inspired stilettos following the dot-com bust at the turn of the century.
In a potential deviation from the long-term trend, Davis continued, an analysis of the last four years of social media showed that discussions of increasing heel height peaked towards the end of 2009, and declined after that. For example, key trend-watching bloggers between 2008 and 2009 wrote consistently about heels from five to eight inches, but by mid 2011 they were writing about the return of the kitten heel and the perfect flat from Jimmy Choo and Louboutin. This is not to say that the sky-high heels have gone, rather that, as the economic downturn has wore on, they are discussed as glamwear and not for the office or shopping trip, Davis said.
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