High heels are a big part of our lives today. We wear them when we go to formal events, on dates, if we have some doubts about our height, etc. High heels are associated with an elongated and sexy female shape and they often increase a woman?s confidence in her appearance. How did it all start, though??
Murals found from 3500 BC show Egyptians wearing elevated shoes for ceremonial purposes. There is also evidence that butchers from that time also wore such shoes to keep their feet from getting dirty with blood.
In ancient Greece and Rome where the theatre was very famous, actors often used such elevated footwear to indicate a difference in the social status of the characters they were representing. Also, since prostitution was legal in Rome, the women who practiced that profession were often recognized by their higher shoes.
There is a widespread theory that concubines and odalisques in the harems of various rulers, were made to wear high heels, not only to look more aesthetically pleasing, but also to be prevented from escaping as these shoes were difficult to run with.
In later years, especially during the Middle Ages, Venetians, amongst others, associated wearing such shoes with a high social status and possession of significant wealth. As the streets were quite muddy in those periods, pattens (higher wooden soles) were attached to the shoe in order to keep it from getting dirty.
A ceramic bowl dating to the 9th century indicates that the platform was divided into a front section and a heel as to make it easier for horse riders to keep their feet in the stirrups. That is also the reason why today?s cowboy boots have a little heel as well.
A model called chopines was designed in Turkey in the 15th century and was famous throughout Europe until the 17th century. These wooden platforms were the first such shoes to be worn exclusively by women.
The fashion sense we give to high heels today is due to Queen Catherine de’ Medici. In 1533 she was supposed to marry the Duke of Orleans who was a tall man with a tall and pretty mistress. As Catherine was a rather short and not-so-beautiful person, she ordered a pair of heels to be made in order to gain height and a more elegant silhouette.
High heels suffered a bad reputation in the 18th century. They were banned by the Massachusetts Colony as they were believed to be used by women to entrap men. They went so far as to declare any woman who was wearing heels to be a witch because the heel was thought to be a representation of the Devil?s hoofs. In 1971, Napoleon also banned high heels due to his equality policy and the idea that no single sign should separate the higher from the lower classes of society.
High heels emerged again much later, in the 1920s when hem lines were going higher and higher and there was a need for a more elegant shoe rather than simple comfortable ones. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, due to the Depression and WWII, the designs were mostly shorter and wider as, again, the need for comfort, was most important.
The stiletto heel, as we know it today, was created in the 1950s by Christian Dior and Roger Vivier. Feminists rose against it, though, as according to them, it represented discrimination and male oppression. In the 1960s and 70s, when the hippy culture was dominating, heels were left behind by platform shoes, only to emerge again in the 1980s when the idea that wearing high heels was pleasing to women was first introduced.
Today?s shoe industry is indebted to Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo. They were the first designers who let their models walk in stilettos on the catwalks in the 1980s and 1990s. Manolo Blahnik even invented the heelless high heel in 2006, totally revolutionising our perception of fashionable shoes. Their coveted shoes are also more freely available through internet shopping, also enabling the general public to obtain designer shoes at discounted prices.
We have so many choices and such unprecedented access to heeled shoes today? If only Napoleon and The Massachusetts Colony could see the high heel races organized all over the world, and understand that today a woman wearing high heels is considered elegant and stylish.
Rita Rova writes fashion articles for www.love-my-coupons.com; the home of coupon codes for Australia?s top fashion stores.