Why and Who Invented High Heel Shoes?

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Introduction

Do you know that high heels which are considered as a female domain these days have an interesting history? These iconic high heel shoes were not simply a fashion choice in the past but they have been around longer and were popular among both genders. Heels were not considered just an item of fashion in the past but they were having an important part in representing a person’s dominating and powerful nature. Yet, heels not only accentuate height but also show the vitality of the wearer that he is able enough to crush the enemy down. In this regard, men got attracted to high heels because they give them the feeling of being masculine who is dominant and strong.

High heels were first designed for the Persian army so that they may stand on the stirrups when on the horseback on the battlefield. After crushing the enemy down Kings in Europe adopted them as a symbol of robustness. Heels popularity was at its peak when King Louis XIV passed a verdict where red heels were essential for courts men. You can have a look at King Louis XIV’s pictures where he was wearing red heels. There was a huge difference between rich and poor and you could tell it by seeing his high heels especially the red ones. Yet, after the French Revolution, the men’s high heels era comes to an end when women adopted high heels and which continued until then. Styles change, shapes trimmed but high heels are still with us, but mostly for ladies. Yet, we are not sure that men’s high heels will not return as many top brands are working on it.

Exciting to read the story further? Let’s dive deep into the high heel shoe history in a detailed way. We have gathered a timeline that will help you to understand it better than in which era in which heels were popular. So, let’s get started.

10th Century: Persian Army

It is known that high heels come from Iran previously known as Persia in the 10th century, and the Persian army had the honor of wearing them. At that time Persian army was the largest in the world and under the rule of Shah Abbas I when the country was in a chaotic position its army defeated Uzbeks. Thus, Persia took full control over the Persian Gulf and it is said that they gain success by using a different item on their feet.

Show your masculinity

On the battlefield, soldiers would have to stand on the stirrups to shoot the bow and arrow to kill the enemy. So, with the flat boots, the chances were that their shoes may slip, and eventually, they missed the target. That’s why high heels were invented. Thus, by wearing heels they could secure their feet in the stirrups while standing on the saddle and accurately target the subject. As owning horses were considered a symbol of wealth, so these Persian cavalry shoes were considered as a symbol of power and stability. You can show your masculinity to the enemy by wearing them that you are strong and you can crush them.

17th Century: Kings in the United Kingdom

It is at the end of the 17th century when Persian Shah sent a delegation of soldiers (which is also called Persia-mania) to Russia, Spain, and Germany to ally. Soon, the European upper class got attracted by the heeled shoes as it indicates virility and robustness. So, they become much admired-style all over Europe especially the elite class because high heels prevent dirt to get on their shoes so they feel more sophisticated and clean, and dominant over the lower class.

King Louis XIV

In this regard, high-heeled shoes filtered the upper class from the lower one, the richer you are the higher heel you would wear. King Louis XIV was the most famous for wearing heels as he was 4.5 inches in height so he loves to wear heels as they give him extra height. He also banned his courts’ men unless they wear red heels. In this case, in 1670 he passed the edict in which he describes that only the nobility would wear red heels of 2 ½ inches. So, red heels become symbolic which shows that the wearer is powerful and he can crush the enemy down.

European heeled shoes from ca. 1690
This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, Link

18th Century: Egypt Butchers

Egypt is known for its leather production especially in the 18th century. So, they need more animals to get slaughtered to make leather from their skin. In this regard, few steps were taken such as providing different footwear to the butchers so that they work efficiently. As after slaughtering animals the area becomes quite slippery because of the blood and dead bodies of the animals. So, butchers find it quite difficult to speed up the job. That’s why high heels were invented by butchers.

Platform high heels

In this regard, butchers were allowed to wear platform high heels so that they may perform their tasks in an easy way, such as walking over the blood or the meat in a comfortable way. It also allowed them to keep their feet clean from the blood while slaughtering animals and they can safely walk over the corpses of animals. 

19th Century: Invention of high heels (stiletto)

In 1533 the first woman who wore high heels was Catherine de Medici (a royal figure), whose husband-to-be was taller than her and she needed extra height to appear taller. So, she wore two inches high heels and confidently appear on her big day. Later on, shoe designers made high heels that went up to 8 inches high. In the 1930s Moshe (Morris) Kimel was the one who invented platform shoes for Marlene Dietrich.

Women adopted the style

By the end of the 17th century, high heels had become so famous that women start wearing them too as they give them the feeling of being strong and different. So, they started smoking pipes or cut their hair to wear heels and look taller among the lower class. It was the time when did high heels become feminine.  But after the French Revolution in 1789, people’s perspective on heels especially the males got changed and there is an end of aristocratic male heels anymore.

In the 19th century once again heels were being introduced in the fashion industry but this time they were only for ladies. It is because when women start wearing heels they look more slender and their figures look more alluring to men. So in the 1950s higher and thinner heels were being introduced by Roger Vivier which is named “stilettos”.

When stilettoes were invented, then afterward for its publicity two renowned figures Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, who were famous fashion icons wear stilettos and thus these heels got famous all over the world. Thus, it was considered as a golden age of high heels, when women want to carry them instead of flat or platforms as high heels not only make them look taller but also build confidence in their gait and overall appearance.

Stiletto heels weren’t feminine

When Giacomo Pirandello, Baron of Styletto, invented high heels, he already had a shoe with a stiletto sole. But that design he had in mind and marketed was not intended to satisfy feminine needs for sophistication. Nor to create fashion trends. Pirandello invented stilettos specifically for riders.

He wanted, with them, to improve the performance of the riders. They weren’t designed to be ladies’ wardrobe accessories. The stilettos invented in the eighteenth century had a purpose.

It was for those who ride a horse to have an implement that would improve the speed and performance of these animals.

On that occasion, the designer conceived the stiletto heels as a complement or support for the spurs. From there, it began an evolution until it became the stilettos that are known today.

Future of High Heels

Photograph: OP-Online

In the 1970s women stopped wearing heels anymore but in the 80s celebrities start putting them on once again. One of the famous figures was Madonna who bought the heels back in fashion. Then Freddie Mercury from Queen also appears in chunky heel boots, platforms, or stilettos. Since then, heels continued to be with us as one of the most important parts of our overall appearance.

What would be the future of heels in reality?

If we talk about the future of heels then we see that people are experimenting with dressing outside the gender norms nowadays. So, there is a possibility that the evolution of high heels would again become a fashion for both the genders in future. We see that there is a lot of variety in heels available in the market whether it is the classic feminine look you want or the androgynous one you can see that there are lots of heel styles available to suit your taste.

More comfortable and easy-to-carry

Mostly the high-heeled shoes are considered as an uncomfortable item that pinches your feet and you can’t wear them easily for a longer period. But research has been made to make the high-heeled shoes as comfortable as possible so that the wearer may not find any health issues. There are many types of heels in the market such as platforms, stilettos, block heels, and espadrilles, etc. and you can choose in between which suits your taste. But the credit goes to Roger Vivier who invented high heels for ladies and make them look so beautiful and enhance their curves.

Even then people may find it quite uneasy to wear high heels for a longer period because of its formation and the chances are that you may get serious health issues. But we hope that in future shoemakers will make them as comfortable as other shoes are. One thing is clear though, that high heels will be more famous in future because women look more attractive and alluring in them and they feel quite attractive. 

Did men’s heel style has ended?

It would be inappropriate to say that after the fall of men’s heels, there is an end of high heels at all. Some shoe designers took inspiration from the Persian cavalry heel and modify it, the famous example is cowboy boots which are considered masculine shoes which are fabricated quite strongly and give you a virile feeling. In the 1960s and 70s Beatles, boots were being introduced which was a variant of Chelsea boots; tight-fitting and pointed-toe Cuban heels shoes. In this regard, in 1961 John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were a public image wear Chelsea boots and then Motley Crue rocked the stage with Cuban heels. Many brands such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Stefano Bemer, etc. also tried to revive the men’s heels but still, there is a lot of change in perspectives of men concerning heels.

Purpose of wearing high heel shoes

Heels for height

In the fifteenth century, high heels began to be used to overcome height, both in men and women. Platform shoes are not an invention of modernity either, their appearance dates from the Venice of the 15th century, at the time of the Renaissance.

During the reign of Louis XV, in France, heels were worn by both men and women, and there is evidence of this even in works of art of the time.

Rigaud Louis XIV 1701

Portrait of King Louis XIV in high heels

But, historians point out that in the marriage ceremony of Catherine de Medici, held in Paris in 1533, high shoes began to be seen as something exclusive to ladies.

On that occasion, both the bride, the courtship and guests, wore very high shoes.

They say that it was very difficult to put them on their feet and that they required the support of at least two domestic workers to be able to put them on their feet. At that time, there was no distinction between a shoe for a left or a right foot.

18th century shoes mules.jpg
By Details of La toilette (Boucher) (1742) and The Declaration of Love (Jean François de Troy) (1731)., Public Domain, Link

Typical 18th-century shoe

Heels as a status symbol

What began as a practical tool to facilitate horse-riding, became the norm between noblemen and kings, since it also enhanced their figure, improved bearing, and gave a lot of presence.

The heels of antiquity

Since the 20th century, with the massification of footwear manufacturing and the diversity of types, both for men and women, high heels have become a fashion trend, more than a social class.

From this century, a series of designers emerged, experimenting with colors, designs, and materials. Everything to innovate and compete in the market.

FAQ

Why high heels were invented and for what reason?

In the 15th century, Persian soldiers were the first who wore them to keep their feet in the stirrups, and on the battlefield, they may target their enemy accurately.

What does the high heel symbolize?

High heels symbolize power and authority over the lower class. Heels not only accentuate height but also indicate your masculinity that you can crush your enemy down.

Why do men like to wear heels?

It was in the 16th century when heels got popular in Europe and King Louis XIV got impressed with heels as they not only give height but also filtered the rich from the poor. So, red heels got popular among the elite class as the lower class was not allowed to wear them.

Do high heels make women attractive?

Yes, women look more alluring in heels especially the high ones as they accentuate their height and enhance the curves. The legs look sleek and slender in heels and men get more attraction towards women in high heels.

Does wearing heels is an easy task?

Nowadays there are various styles of heels available and you have to choose in between which suits your taste. For example, chunky heels are considered as easiest to walk in as compared to stilettos, etc.

Is it bad to wear high heels regularly?

As high heels shift the weight of your body towards the ball of your feet and when you walk your toes may absorb all the pressure. If you wear high heels on regular basis then the chances are that you may face callouses or hammertoes.

Cover photo from gannett-cdn.com

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