The History Of High Heel Shoes

The History Of High Heel Shoes

3rd September 2019

They squish our toes, hurt our feet, put a serious strain on knees and ankles, can be very difficult to walk in, and they cause back pain but we still adore them and proudly wear them. Yes, I’m talking about high heels. Even though they are not very comfortable, especially if you have wide feet and like to wear pointed-toe heels, women adore these shoes and dream about walk-in closets rammed with them. The funny thing is, heels were first considered men’s apparel and more than 2,000 years ago actors in Ancient Greece wore them on stage and the most important characters had the highest shoes. However, the originators of the high heel were Egyptian butchers! Want to know more about the history of high heels? Just keep reading.

The origin

As mentioned, the story of high heels begins in Egypt, where butchers used them to walk through carcasses of dead animals without getting their blood and insides on their feet. Well, nothing sexy about this image, right? However, high heels weren’t a part of the mainstream fashion up until the 16th century, when Catherine de Medici married Henry II. The bride who was only five feet tall (and only 14 years old) wanted to look taller and therefore worked with a local cobbler to fashion shoes which gave her a boost. Since that event, many members of royalty started wearing high heels. They were the ‘in’ thing when it comes to shoe fashion during that era and Marie Antoinette loved them so much that she was even executed in a pair of heels. Now that’s how you exit in style!

During that period wearing heels was a sign of wealth and class and both men and women wore them. One of the biggest fans of high-heeled shoes was Louis XIV of France who was only five foot four and wore them so he could appear more powerful and domineering. His heels were dyed red, and since the red pigment was extremely expensive at the time, red heels were a clear sign of his superior social status. In fact, people who didn’t have red-soled shoes were banned from his court. As you might guess, this symbol of luxury inspired modern footwear designer Christian Louboutin. After the death of de Medici, women went back to lower heels while men kept wearing high ones.

The End Of The High-Heel Era (For Men)

Until the French Revolution people's style was influenced by the aristocracy and civilians aspired to look like royals. Everything changed during it when people's views of royalty changed and heels were swapped for flats.

The Comeback

When the sewing machine was invented in the Victorian era, shoes became more feminine and sophisticated due to the gently curved instep and for the first time in history were no longer considered masculine. In fact, they started being considered sexy when makers of postcards in France started photographing nude women wearing heels.

The Rise Of Stilettos 

Although people did wear high heels before World War II, it was only after this war that they lost their chunky look. Pin-up posters during the 1940s and 1950s made high heels the symbol of glamour and femininity, and slowly the trend made its way into Hollywood. Starts such as Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe started wearing heels in their movies and naturally, all women wanted to replicate the look at home. The tallest and thinnest high heel was created in the early 1950s by Roger Vivier, a shoe designer for Christian Dior. He named it the stiletto, which is an Italian word for a thin dagger.

Shoes And Feminism

In the 1960s the feministic movement inspired women to swap high-heels for lower ones and chunky platforms made a comeback as well. During this period simple leather shoes with a two-inch heel and a strap across the front called Mary-Janes became extremely popular.

Present Day

In the 1990s designers like Manolo Blahnik made high-heels trendy once again and they have been popular amongst the women ever since. Nowadays you can find them in various designs and colors and they are still representative of femininity and glamour.

One thing is certain, heels have come a long way since they were first made. So the next time you get all dolled up for a fancy party, you can thank those Egyptians butchers for your sexy look – or your back pain, whichever you may prefer. 

Related Business

articles Subscription

Related articles