I have been racking my brain with the meaning of three expressions:
taut-jawed men - does it mean that they are stern looking, that their facial expression is tight and tense?
brick-lipped, hard-heeled women - same sense as number 1, I mean that they are with pursed lips or are they wearing some kind of reddish lipstick?
the hard-heeled part - does it mean that their heels are rough, in the sense that they are hurrying, hard-working women, etc., hence their cracked heels though we can't know that just from looking at them on the street. Is it more like they are stomping so hard because they are brusque?
Just to be on the safe side and provide some context, here is the whole sentence:
"He walked along Eighth Street, over to Christopher, then to the river, threading his way like a pickpocket through the crowds just off the ferryboats from New Jersey: taut-jawed men in stiff hats and suits and obsidian shoes, newspapers pinned under their arms; brusque, brick-lipped, hard-heeled women in floral dresses."
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon (page 173)