New York: If you want to know how ambitious your female friend is, look -- and not kneel -- at her heels. According to researchers, a woman's choice to fit in with a crowd or stand out may depend on the size of her high heels which explains the deep human urge to gain status in the society.
The findings showed that women adopt local trends -- like changing the size of heels -- while moving to richer parts of the city but ignore them when they move to socio-economically lower areas.
"In other words, most women want to look like rich girls and different from the poor girls," said Kurt Gray, assistant professor at University of North Carolina in the US.
While moving to posh cities, women tend to closely try and match the size of their heels with the heel size of other women in that city, showing a deep desire for conformity.
However, on the contrary, in a bid to keep up with their individuality, they match the size of their heels with the size of their own past purchases, when shifting to poorer localities.
The researchers labelled this phenomenon as "trickle down conformity", because fashion preferences trickle down from the top but seldom up from the bottom.
"From the beginning of time, people have thirsted for respect and social standing, and have aligned themselves with the powerful and distanced themselves from the powerless. So it makes sense that they do the same with heel sizes," Gray explained in the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.
This "aspirational fashion" of people want to look rich is getting more prevalent, with the increasing inequality in society and widening gap between rich and poor.
To examine this trend, the researchers teamed up with a large-online fashion retailer. They examined the size of high heels in five years of shoe purchases -- 16,236 in total -- of 2007 women who moved between one of 180 US cities.
Such aspirations also fuel the fortunes of fashion sites that provide high-status goods for low prices, the researchers noted, adding that the phenomenon may also apply to men.
"Men do the same thing when they purchase clothes, electronics or cars," Gray said.