The origin of high heels dates back many centuries. Today, heels are essential fashion accessory. Back then it served various purposes other than fashion. So how have they evolved throughout history?
The first pair of heels were discovered in Ancient Egypt in the tombs and on murals. Both sexes wore high heels for ceremonial purposes and to portray their social classes.
In Ancient Greece & Rome, actors preferred wearing platform sandals, called kothorni with high wooden or cork soles. Heels depict the social status of actor’s character. Sex trade was legal in ancient Rome and high heels were used by prostitutes as a form of identity within the trade to prospective clients.
During the Middle Ages
The first platform shoe called Chopine was invented in Turkey. Catherine de Medici was very short at the age of 14 when she came to France so for her to appear taller she had the high heels designed for her wedding.
She is attributed as the inventor of high heels as a fashion items after wearing modern high heels from Italy. Queen Mary I of England frequently used high heels and this made them popular in England.
The 18th Century
King Louis XIV introduced heels up to five inches tall decorated with variety designs of nature and mini battle scenes. One had to wear a pair painted in red to enter his court.
Tiny-footed Madame De Pompadour popularized shoes with high and narrow heels.
During the French Revolution, heels were banned in an attempt to show equality. Heels symbolized wealth and affluence.
The 19th Century
There was a comeback in heels in the 19th century and fashionable heels could measure up to 2.5 inches. The invention of sewing machines made for a greater variety of heels. The first pair of boots designed for females were worn by English Queen Victoria. The first high heel factory was opened in New York. A straight and slender high heel was introduced and named after the French shoemaker Francois Pinet.
The 20th Century
In the 1920s shorter hemlines began to be paired with very high and slender heels. High heels were temporarily phased out in the 1930s in exchange for lower heels with wider width. They were brought back in the 1940s.
French designer Christian Dior in collaboration with Roger Vivier developed the stiletto. Platform shoes that were reminiscent of the ancient kothorni remained popular and were decorated with psychedelic swirls and colors.
The 21st Century
More shoes choices were made available. This enabled fashion icons to dress to impress unlike before. Many women are known to undergo surgery in order to have a better shoe fit or go to gyms for legs and calves strengthening. Although high heels are seen as an important fashion statement in the 21st century, some feminists would argue against this practice and see them as a representation of female oppression since they are painful to wear and allegedly worn to attract the male gaze.