For a few months now, an online petition and a hashtag has got women in Japan discussing the de facto requirement for female staff to wear high heels at work. Known as the #KuToo campaign, playing on the Japanese words kutsu (meaning shoes) and kutsuu (meaning pain), it was launched by actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa in February. On Tuesday, a petition was submitted to the government to ban workplaces from requiring female job seekers and employees to wear high heels. But on Wednesday, Japan’s health and labour minister, Takumi Nemoto, defended the practice at a legislative committee meeting, and called it “socially accepted, occupationally necessary and appropriate”. Similar petitions have previously been filed in Canada, Philippines, and the UK where steps were taken to relax the requirement.
We take a look at those who ditched the pumps and chose comfort:
* In 2015, Cannes festival faced backlash when a group of women was turned away for allegedly not wearing heels. Festival director, Thierry Frémaux denied that high heels are obligatory, but the festival follows the code. Fans were up for a surprise when actor Julia Roberts (pictured), in 2016, lifted her black Armani Privé gown to show her bare feet at the premiere of her film Money Monster.
* Actor Kristen Stewart, in 2018, also followed suit by removing her heels at the Cannes red carpet to protest the event’s no-flats policy. The Twilight star is known for pairing her dresses with kicks and entering movie premieres in heels and leaving in sneakers.
* Another celebrity who loves to flaunt her comfortable sneakers at high-profile events is tennis player Serena Williams. Last year, she tweeted her photo at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with the caption — “Little known fact: I often wear sneakers under my evening gown,” she wrote. Last month, she made heads turn when she matched her bright yellow, floral embellished Atelier Versace gown with a pair of matching off-white x Nike sneakers at the Met Gala.
* Ski champion Lindsey Vonn won over the crowd by walking the red carpet in a vivid yellow ballgown along with white lace-up sneakers at Academy of Country Music Awards.
* According to reports, sales of high heels had dropped 12 per cent last year in the US, while sales of women’s sneakers rose by 37 percent. Stranger Things actor Millie Bobby Brown made news when she paired her pink sequin Calvin Klein dress with Converse sneakers at the SAG Awards last year.