Technically speaking, the first-ever fashion item to be created would be clothes, their age ranges back to Adam and Eve, but something which was created for needs and became a want would definitely be heeled shoes. The history of heels is as old as the 10th Century, in fact, this platformed item of footwear actually gained popularity in the Persian Army. However, what is more, surprising than the discovery of heels, is the fact that they weren’t even originally designed for women.
Persian soldiers were the first ones to discover that heels gave them the stability required to shoot their arrows, by helping their feet to stay in their stirrups. If we come to think of how the modern cowboy boot found an origin. Interestingly, it is derived from the 10th Century tradition, where soldiers wore heeled riding boots, in the time of the Samanid Empire (874-1005).
By the 17th Century, 1-inch heels became the norm of Persian riders, and as, owning horses signified wealth, heeled shoes connected themselves to this field of luxury, and owning a pair showed money and power (Bass-Krueger, n.d.).
From Culture to Fashion
The reason heels became a part of the west fashion, was “Persia-Mania”. At the turn of the 17th century, when the Shah of Persia, sent a delegation of soldiers to build relations with leaders in Spain, Russia, and Germany; these European aristocrats saw heels as a symbol of military excellence and virility, and got inspired to adopt this fashion in their culture too.
As it could be seen, male fashion at that time concerned with emphasizing men’s calves and thighs, through wearing leggings, loose britches, and heeled shoes. Even men in pictures, posed in a way to show off their legs and shoes.
Louis XIV was the most famous wearer of heels. Not only did he pass an edict in 1670, stating that only nobility could wear heels, but also, under his rule, the power of the wearer was signified by the hight and redness of the heel (Bass-Krueger, n.d.).
Change of Feet with Change in Time
As shoes became increasingly gendered in the 18th Century, men stopped wearing heels as a reaction against their perceived feminization. This feminization was caused by women’s shoes becoming narrower and more ornamental, with high heels; and as a result, men’s shoes became sturdier, broader, and less delicate (Bass-Krueger, n.d.).
What we see today
In 16 th Century Europe, women wore platform shoes, which sometimes heightened to 60 centimeters. However, the first recorded instance of a woman wearing high heels was of Catherine de Medici, who wore it to look taller on her wedding day.
The right to wear heels extended to the general population only after the end of World War 2. This is also when stiletto heels were created. Perhaps, in the words of shoe historian Cameron Kippen, “The secret of the stiletto heel was a small piece of metal which joined the inside of the shoes sufficiently that the heel and foot of the shoe could operate separately. It could actually bend and twist…. Once a shoe designer managed to work that out, then heels became more like what we see today” (Wynne, 2017).
Bass-Krueger, M. (n.d.). The High-Life: A History of Men in Heels. Retrieved from Google Arts and Culture: https://artsandculture.google.com/
Wynne, E. (2017, November 13). History of the high heel: It wasn’t always a woman’s shoe.
Retrieved from ABC News: https://www.abc.net.au/