Simon Chilvers on the dangers of fashion

Ask most style addicts what they consider the most dangerous thing about fashion, and they will say it is the stonking great overdrafts. But frittering away our hard-earned cash is rarely seen as a direct health hazard. Yesterday, however, a report in the Daily Express featured the alarming headline: "Dangerous trend may send youngsters blind." Opticians, it said, are warning that trendy colourful contact lenses, popularised by the likes of Goth rocker Marilyn Manson, could not only damage eyesight, but in some cases lead to blindness. Available from gadget shops and the internet, the lenses are being worn without the wearers knowing how to clean them properly. There is also concern that teenagers may be risking their eyesight further by swapping lenses with friends. The General Optical Council, the professional body that regulates opticians, is so concerned that it is calling for a crackdown on the trend.

So, fashion is bad for our health. Tell us something new. Consider the perils of piercing and tattooing. The procedures, despite having been fashionable for years, are still seen as acts of rebellion. Selfridges, as part of its recent Bodyzone month, featured a parlour in its London store which proved so popular it has become a permanent feature. But not all parlours have proved so successful. The Daily Mail reported this month that a piercing parlour in Dundee had been shut down because of concerns about dirty equipment and customers had been offered blood tests for hepatitis B and C and HIV.

Less extreme but certainly with the potential to be dangerous are shoes. And not just stilettos - though let's face it, we all have a friend who has gone arse over tit in a pair of killer heels after one too many cocktails. I recently wore a brand-new pair of stacked-heeled platform shoes on a daylong sightseeing walk around Paris, and while I managed to stay upright for most of the day, the blisters were agony. Tip: never wear new shoes for a whole day of walking around.

Watch out too for flip-flops and sandals which, in the current heatwave, it seems everyone and their dog is sporting. As a stylist on the Guardian fashion desk discovered yesterday afternoon, all it takes is a pair of scissors to tumble tip first from desk to foot to cause serious damage. Medical types believe that high heels can damage hips, knees and spine; flat shoes can ruin your posture, and if the straw on your espadrilles gets wet, you'd better watch out for fungal infections and athletes foot. Ugh.

Earlier this year, skinny hipster trousers were the height of fashion. Then came the news that wearing them could cause paresthesia, a condition that causes a tingling in your thighs. Apparently, this ailment was being caused by the hipbone being too tightly compressed. So next season's uniform of skinny trousers, leggings and skyscraper heels looks set to get the doctors ranting all over again.

At least the new interpretations of the corset, shown for autumn by Stella McCartney among others, is unlikely to cause the ills the old-fashioned corset once did. In days gone by, women wore stiff, strict corsets as uniform, which caused muscle weakening and fainting.

Last but not least there's the current craze for miniskirts, which looks set to continue through to winter. In the past minis have been accused of causing cellulite. Has anyone warned Geri Halliwell?

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