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Lace-up Boot
Natacha Marro for the House of Harlot, 32-inch-high (81 centimeters) black leather with four-inch (ten centimeters) heel, 2000
Lace-up Boot
Photograph by Mitchell Feinberg  

By Cathy Newman

How is an in-your-face black leather thigh-high lace-up boot with a four-inch spike heel like a man's black calf lace-up oxford? They are both made on a last, the wood or plastic foot-shaped form that leather is stretched over and shaped to make a shoe. "You cut a pattern; you give it shape; you put on a sole," says Natacha Marro, a maker of custom fetish boots in London. "Really, they are both the same."

Marro learned shoemaking in London and started designing boots for films like Star Wars and pop stars like Christina Aguilera. Now she sells through the House of Harlot in North London, where an accessory is defined as a leather wristband with steel spikes.

This particular morning, Marro is wearing robin's-egg-blue Mary Jane wedges with a split toe that looks like nothing so much as a pig's trotter. "It's animalistic," she says. "I like animalistic."

Shoes are theater. "Shoes turn you into someone else. You can't be a dominatrix in a sneaker. If you are in a high heel, you are in pain, and you are going to make someone pay for it." Then there is the drag queen who puts on a high platform heel, and he becomes she. "You know women who will kill for the right shoe? There are men, too! You put on heels, and suddenly you are six inches [15 centimeters] higher," she says. "Who doesn't want to be six inches taller? Even men—more men than you can imagine—want to. It's a play. It's a power thing. You can dress as a sailor, a Victorian, a Renaissance princess. When I go to carnival in Venice, I put on my brocade high heels, and I am in the 17th century."

And the epitome of a sexy shoe is?

"You can't go wrong with a nice fitted black leather boot with a four-inch heel."

Or, maybe you can.

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