If you are a big fan of high heels — like me — then you might want to know more about them; where they originated, who invented them, when were they first worn, and more. You will find a lot of this information, right here in this article. So, let’s dive right in.
We will start by taking a look way back through history where you can see that men were the first to wear a lot of things that women are wearing today, including…
It came as a shock to some to find that men wore heels before women.
This news came from the senior curator at the “Bata Shoe Museum” in Toronto, Canada, “Elizabeth Semmelhack”. While doing some research, Semmelhack, traced heels all the way back to the 10th century, when they were actually worn by men — not as a fashion statement — but for other purposes.
Egyptian farmers wore them as an aid to walk through dense mud and dirt. Persian soldiers wore heels so their feet would fit more snugly in stirrups, giving them the stability needed to be able to shoot their bows and arrows while riding on their horses.
Heels were later introduced to Western Europe, by a Persian soldier called, “Shah Abbas” who, at that time, had the world’s largest cavalry. Abbas wore shoes with heels at a meeting to form a bond between Persia and European rulers, where the European’s seen the heels as a symbol of masculinity and power and adopted the idea for themselves.
Upon realizing that wearing shoes with higher heels would add to their height, men in Holland and England began wearing them as well.
Soon, French rulers, aristocrats, and noblemen began wearing heels to separate themselves from those considered to be lower class peasants.
King Louis XIV, who stood only 5 feet 4 inches and reigned over France from 1643 until he died in 1715, fancied heels so much that he had a heel named after himself called the “Louie” heel.
Later, the heels of these shoes were painted red, and for a short time, were restricted to nobility. Anyone caught wearing shoes with red heels, at that time– without permission were beheaded.
Semmelhack may have traced heels back to the 10th century, but truth is, they actually go back even further. Both men and women could be seen wearing shoes with heels, on ancient Egyptian murals that date as far back as 3500B.C. The murals, portraying Egyptian nobilities wearing heels, may have been meant to serve as a declaration pointing out that they were above those who weren’t wearing any shoes known as the lower class. At that time, shoe heels were made of leather pieces held together with lace to create the symbol of life.
During the ancient Roman era, both Greeks and Romans wore platform sandals that also had a heel, called “buskins” or “kothorni”. These shoes had high soles made of wooden cork and, similar to the Egyptians reasoning, were worn to separate the social classes. In addition, buskins were used to identify women who were willing to trade sexual favors for payment as that was a time when prostitution was legal in Rome.
“Pattens”, were another type of shoe with a bit of a heel that was worn during the Middle Ages by both men and women, but they were mostly worn by women. However, these shoes were basically just wooden soles that people would attach to their more expensive and fragile footwear to keep them safe from dirt, water, mud, or other street debris as Pattens were specifically made to prevent good shoes from getting dirty or damaged.
As you can see, throughout history, shoes with heels were mostly worn by men who continued wearing them for centuries until us girls tried them on for size and took them away.
In the 1400s, women wore platform shoes that were created in Turkey, called, “Chopines”, which were typically 7 to 8 inches high.
But, some were as high as 30 centimeters. When women chose to wear these ridiculously high platforms some required a walking stick and/or a servant to help them walk.
Women didn’t start wearing actual high heels until 1533, when the 14-year-old daughter of the famous Medici family, “Catherine De Medici” wanted to look taller at her wedding when marrying Henri of Orleans, therefore, she wore high heels and soon after other women followed in the same fashion.
Soon the popularity of heel wearers shifted from bold and noblemen to classy and fashionable females.
In an attempt to demonstrate equality, Napolean banished high heels during the French revolution, however, they re-emerged with the Victorian ages. Yet again, they died out during World War I, but towards the end of WWII, soldiers were hanging up pin-ups’ of glamour shots taken of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable wearing high heels.
This started a new trend in Hollywood that made its way to French shoe designer Roger Vivier and behold stilettoes were born. Vivier also collaborated with world famous Christian Dior to take high heel shoes to another level of sexy utilizing things like silk, rhinestones, and pearls to create shoes that dazzled.
I have always considered myself a bit of a Fashionista, who keeps up with new fashion trends, but when women start wearing top hats, I’m going casual!