And based on IBM's analysis of social-media buzz, largely
focused on fashion bloggers, women's shoe fashions are poised for a
decline from their current heights.
A retrospective analysis of tweets, blog posts and other
social-media mentions of heels finds they tend to be largely
predictive of trends, Mr. Davis said. Ominously, the average height
of heels mentioned in social media soared from 3 inches in the
first half of 2008 to 6 inches in the second half, just as the U.S.
financial bubble burst and women's heels were ready to head toward
their current heights. Heel buzz most recently peaked in the first
half of 2009 at 7 inches, bounced around at 4 to 5 inches through
early 2010 and plunged to 2 inches in the most recent IBM analysis
from early this year.
IBM's cross analysis of heel-height buzz and macroeconomic data
suggest a strong inverse correlation between heel-height buzz and
economic growth, Mr. Davis said.
Online shoe mavens and bloggers "appear to be picking up these
weak signals about the macroeconomic climate maybe in a way that
the experts in the industry are missing," he said. At the very
least, he said, they're sensitive to what shoe manufacturers and
designers are planning, most recently writing about the return of
the "kitten heel" and flats from Jimmy Choo and Christian
He believes there's also a bit of a feedback loop inasmuch as
the shoe marketers keep tabs on what the bloggers write.
Or it could just be that like a housing market fueled by
subprime mortgages couldn't last forever, women on 7-inch heels
have been teetering on the brink of a fall. Inevitably, the "escape
to fantasy" with higher heels at the outset of a recession, Mr.
Davis said, becomes a bit passe.