About 3500 B.C, in the ancient Egypt, early high heels was seen on ancient murals. These murals show the nobilities of the Egyptians putting on heels to differentiate themselves from the lower classes that often go around barefooted. Heeled shoes were worn by both women and men and mostly for ceremonial purpose. However, they are also of importance to the Egyptian butchers who use them so that they can work on bloodied bodies of animal carcasses. During this time, heels were leather pieces and were held with each other to form the symbol of “Ankh”, which signify life.
In 1500s, the high heels started becoming popular in the fashion world and were made into two different pieces, a movable upper piece which is attached to a fixed stable sole. With this new invention, the heel is being combined to become part of the actual shoe instead of an attachable sole. The mass popularity of heels within the male and female fashion was increased by the invention of heeled riding boots. The rider’s heel which range from 1 to 1 and half inches prevent the riders from slipping off their stirrups. These heels later evolved into a stylized heels that become higher and thinner during the middle of 15th century when Catherine de Medici made them more functional and fashionable.
The first women’s heel was designed to lengthen the legs in 1533. The innovation of high heels as a fashion could be credited to petite Catherine de Medici who got engaged to the Duke of Orleans when she was 14 years old. The Duke who later became the King of France was very tall which was contrary to the small stature of de Medici’s. She felt insecure when compared with the Duke’s favorite mistress, Diana de Poitiers, who was very tall. Because she knew there is need for her to compete with his mistress so as to get attention in an arrange marriage she was not comfortable, de Medici had to device ways to astonish the Frenchmen and counter her lack of beauty and aesthetic appeal. The French Queen had to change this by using two inches heels that gave her a higher physique as well as a captivating look whenever she moves. These heels were successful and later become associated with wealth and privilege. Mary Tudor also persuaded heels and it allows her to appear more appealing. By 1590, fashionable heels were popular for both male and female, and people who had authority or wealth was mostly referred to as “well-heeled”.
Some people think that high heeled shoes were constructed mainly to torture women into feeling that their toes has fallen off which is very wrong. They have gotten a long story and pretty history dating back to thousands of years, incorporating, prostitution, religious ceremonies, decadent kings, gender-bending fashionistas, as well as child brides. It also turned out that when it comes to heels, women’s are the late adopters, and the real fashionistas on the heel front were men.
The rise of the platform heel from the 70s to today’s fashion seems to show that we are tired of bending our feet out of shape, but it shows that we’re temporarily tired of learning all our weight is on our toes. Most of us still desire that height that boosts that sashay. And why won’t we want it? Everyone from the Persian Emperor to Louis XIV of France had something spectacular to say about the topic of heels. Although all of us cannot be like the famous Imelda Marcos who collected about 3000 pairs of heels, we can still look at the few we treasure and think of how far they have come.
Ancient Times: Heels For Actors
The high heel shoe is an ancient idea, and one of the first traced high level pieces of footwear in history belonged to the actors in ancient Greece and they were known as kothorni. The shoes were flat and has wooden base which is about four inches in thickness. However, they were not necessarily worn offstage; they were used to represent the social class of the different characters in Greek comedy and character. The higher the heel, the more elevated the character.
It is also evident that ancient Egyptians used heels, but not on daily basis. Just like the Greeks, they use their heels for a specific purpose like religious ceremonies. We do not know the reason why, though the higher the heel, the closer to the Egyptian gods.
Medieval Persia: The Trend Continued
One of the proven theories about how high heels become popular in the world comes from shoe expert and academic Elizabeth Semmelhack who is a curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Canada. She thought that Persian riding shoes were the source of the first trend.
Persian art revealed thatmost of the noblemen of the medieval Persian Empire wore heels when riding, which are mostly in decadent materials and bright colors so as to have a good grip to their stirrups. According to Semmelhack, the European royals really take note when Shah Abbas who was a Persian monarch, came to tour European courts and make good friend in 1500s. However, the diplomatic gesture changed to a fashionable one, and people saw the beautiful heeled shoes worn by the shah and his entourage, and decide to claim them. And to be candid, they wereamazing.
1400s: Heels For Women Emerge
It took a long time to develop the idea of the heel being a female notion. Venice was one of the places where it was held in 1400s but those heels were not the types you would want to wear to the club nowadays. They were called chopines, and were very high, slight-tilted shoes with many narrow platforms under them. Initially, they were designed to keep the mud off the ladies shoes when working in the street, they are made with easily stained materials like satin or animal skin, but became decorative symbols, and later developed into Europe-wide trend.
Chopines are not European idea, the Japanese have had them for centuries with different names but the same idea: Preventing an expensive Kimono from touching the dirty ground, and looking very distinctive. An apprentice known as maiko,will wear footwear called okobo, which are made with solid wooden blocks and tower above the ground. And the concept of the elevated foot has been in use in Japan fashion for a long period of time; a shoe which is made with plank of wood with two others below to hold the wearer off the ground will be about 18cm in height.
For some reasons, the chopine was outlawed in France. One of the reasons was that, they were mostly worn by prostitutes, who create attention with them. Another one is the problem they cause to the heap, this range from traffic accidents and frequent falls to miscarriage which is less likely. They were likewise ridiculed widely by everyone from Shakespeare to religious commentators, who also think they were outrageous.
The Renaissance: Gender-Bending Women
The idea of shoes with low sole and high heel for women has made its debut on a fairly spectacular occasion: a royal weeding when Catherine de Medici married the Duke of Orleans in 1533, the 14-year-old bride wore heels so as to look like an adult. The then gender-bending move made a splash, and more women started wearing more typical “riding heels”.
The Baroque Period: All About Aristocratic Male Heels
The Persian shoes were only for men, and it was European royal men who took them and ran with them. The real fashion maven, and patron saint of the heel, was Louis XIV of France, also known as the Sun King. He loves all stylish things; he was the one who made the palace Versailles the center of his power. And the heel looks more elaborate.
The Victorian Era: Just For Ladies (And Porn)
After the French revolution, the high heel went through a fall in fortune, because people want nothing to do with something looking like aristocrats. And the new world wasn’t fond of them either, Massachusetts immediately banned high heels because he thought they were seductive and also contribute to witchcraft. However, they would bounce back.
The Victorians were ones who rediscovered the heel. New sewing are used to make gentle heels with a few inches which was considered quite enough. The Main focus was on the instep; a curved instep is supposed to show a woman’s refinement and femininity, and tiny heeled feet were the height of sophistication. It was the beginning of erotic photography too and heels played a major role in the first year. It was reported by BBC that some of the first nude photographs of women featured high heels. Once it had been around for some time, the heel on women started to accumulate its erotic, feminine significance.
World War II: The First Stiletto
Pornography and its more innocent cousin photography is credited for making the heel a fetishized, popular object especially during the World War II, when men have the photographs of girls wearing heels pinned up all over the batter-field in Europe. A famous sex anthropologist, Helen Fisher, pointed out that this was the bit of history we really discovered the sexual pose heels created.
In the year 1954, the first stiletto heel was invented by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior’s fashion collections. It was named after the Italian word for a thin dagger; the shoes were immediately taken as a serious sex symbol by Hollywood. There is a rumor which may be untrue that Marilyn Monroe had one heel on her shoes made slightly shorter than the other, in order to produce her exaggerated sexual gait. She is the footwear pioneer; she was given custom made shoes which are designed by Ferragamo, now one of the famous in the world.
The Modern Heel
The heel made a splash in 2015 when the Cannes Film Festival reportedly banned women from wearing anything other than towering heels on the red carpet. It led to a lot of controversy: does the heel have a stranglehold over female glamour? The excitement over heels, partially fueled by the Manolo-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw character may have begun to reduce slightly. Health fears about the danger of heels which draw report of damage to ankles, muscles, bones and general balance, have given women reason to think before going for the 6-inch stilettos.
But boundaries continue to push with the making of new heels that operate like ballet shoes, thereby forcing the user into permanent en point.The late Alexander McQueen also made extraordinary heels which include the iconic Armadillo heels, which look like pods from the outside. It’s just about making heels in new and different ways, which is by referencing their long and complex past.