Friday, February 11, 2011 | Away We Go, Pur Teen
Perhaps it is because I’m under five feet tall, but I absolutely love a good pair of heels! For high heeled shoes and me, it was love at first fit, and I’ve been rocking pumps, peep toes, sling backs, boots and platforms of all styles and heights since my teenage years. Though high heels are practically my running shoes, not everybody likes to wear them, and I understand why. The position of the foot and the added height in these sexy shoes can hinder speed and balance. This made me wonder “who invented these dangerously beautiful things?” I looked into this, and now you can learn and retell a brief history of the high heeled shoe, making you sound super smart the next time you’re out and about with friends.
Shoes with heels higher than the toe have actually been a status and class indicator as well as a fashion and a sex symbol across the globe for thousands of years! The first heels were seen in ancient Egypt and Greece. While most of the working class walked barefoot, the Egyptian upper class wore heeled shoes shaped as religious symbols for ceremonies, and the Greeks used shoes of varying heights in theatre wardrobe to give a visual sign of social status on the stage.
Egyptian butchers also wore heeled shoes to avoid dirtying their feet with debris. In the Middle Ages, wooden overshoes were worn over delicate shoes to keep them from getting dirty on muddy roads. In the 1400s, clog-like overshoes called Chopins became popular throughout Europe, while platform shoes were worn in certain areas of China and Japan. Both types of shoes would often tower up to a whopping 30 centimeters!
The two-part shoe we know today was invented in the 1500s. Riding boots made a practical and popular debut, and political figures who were not very tall, like Catherine de Medici and King Louis XIV, would wear heeled shoes to raise heights and lower insecurities. Foot fashion and fetishism exploded until Napoleon banned heeled shoes in the 1790s. (Marie Antoinette went to the scaffold wearing two-inch heels!)
The trend of heels went flat for a while, but they made a comeback in the 1860s; along with the invention of the sewing machine. Victorians considered the instep arch to be a sexy symbol of feminine curves, so they liked to emphasize the arch with five to six-inch heels. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the modern shoe exploded. The modern stiletto was created in the 1950s, and it quickly evolved into many of the fabulous designs and varieties we wear today.
Shoe culture has had its highs and lows, from political movements banning heeled shoes to downward trends making them unmarketable, but one thing is certain—nothing can keep a high heel down.