Can we all just get over women wearing leopard print? 

Photo: Getty Images

It's fun, fierce and goes with everything. Here's to powerful women wearing leopard print

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By Frankie Graddon on

On my way into work this morning I saw a picture of newly appointed Downing Street joint chief of staff Fiona Hill in a newspaper. A red ring had been circled around her feet. Why? Because she was wearing a pair of leopard print ballet flats. The accompanying text drew our attention to the fact and then, rather predictably, made a comparison between those of Theresa May’s –another woman who happens to wear leopard print shoes. 

It goes without saying that analysing female politician’s shoes is offensive and boring. Women wear shoes – get over it. That the current Prime Minister’s kitten heels have been on nearly as many front pages as her policies (arguably more) is depressing, as too was today’s examination of Hill’s. But it did make me wonder – had the shoes been stripey or polka dot rather that leopard print, would they have garnered quite so many headlines? 

Theresa May (Photo: Getty Images)

My argument is no. My argument is that society – and by society I mainly mean men – still has an issue with leopard print. Despite it being widely available in Marks and Spencer, it still has connotations of being wanton, racy and shocking. Even when it’s being worn on ballet flats with a navy trouser suit. 

Of course, leopard print has always been loaded with significance. During the 1920s it was a sign of wealth and status. During the thirties it was giving an animalistic sexual undertone thanks to Tarzan’s Jane and her leopard print bikini. Glamour and fantasy came from pin-ups Ava Gardener and Jayne Mansfield. Or Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor in their matching printed hats and coats. 

Ava Gardner (Photo: Rex Features)

Jayne Mansfield (Photo: Rex Features)

Elizabeth Taylor 1955 and 1960 (Photos: Getty Images)

Then came the punk era and Debbie Harry. Strong, feisty, glamorous associations that somewhere along the line got linked to tarty and naff. Dorian in Birds of a Feather. Corrie’s Bet Lynch. The accompaniment to ripped fishnets and a half smoked fag. 

Debbie Harry (Photo: Rex Features)

Dorian from Birds of a Feather

Bet Lynch from Coronation Street

But that was then – like twenty years ago then – and this is well and truly now. Now leopard print is in every shop on the high street and being worn by two to 82 years olds. Stella McCartney wears it. My mum wears it.

Kate Moss (Photo: Getty Images)

Ask a woman what she thinks of when you say leopard print and she’ll probably say “goes with everything”, “looks great with black”, “Kate Moss’s amazing coat”. There will be no utterance of wantoness or provocation – not a hint of Ann Summers about it. 

A print is a print is a print, and today leopard print means nothing more than a great pair of shoes on the shelf at Zara. So, yes, Fiona Hill wears leopard print shoes, as does Theresa May. Now, get over it. 


Photo: Getty Images
Tagged in:
women in politics
fashion news
leopard print

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