The History of High Heels
How many high heeled shoes do you have in your closet? If you’re like most women, you couldn’t live without your heels and may think they’re one of the sexiest things you can wear today. In truth, the history of high heels goes back many years and is not as glamorous and sexy and you might imagine.
Shoes have always been associated with a person’s status and position in society; for centuries, only those who were well-off could afford shoes especially those that are attractive and made of high-quality materials. Those who were wealthier could also afford more shoes than those who are not, and the style of shoes was also affected by a person’s income. Those of a lower class could typically only afford functional shoes whereas those of better financial means could afford shoes that were more decorative. This is how high heels began, back in ancient Egypt, when those of lower classes were typically barefoot whereas those with more wealth wore shoes made of leather and other fine materials. Higher heels were worn by both men and women to give them more height and a sense of superiority over others who could not afford shoes at all.
In the Middle Ages, men and women of financial means also wore a type of platform shoe that was so high they may have needed servants to assist them in walking. These platforms were the precursors of high heels, as they required someone to walk delicately and carefully, something that was considered physically attractive. The Venetians then began using these very high platform shoes for women alone; it was rumored that they were insisted upon by men as the difficulty in walking might make liaisons with other men more difficult for women.
The modern high heel as a sex symbol may be attributed to a French woman named Catherine de Medici who was engaged to the powerful Duke of Orleans, later the King of France. Catherine felt inferior because of her rather short stature and knew that her fiancée preferred his taller mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Catherine also felt her shorter stature would detract from her attempts to rule over the French court, so she asked for a shoe design with a higher heel to give her height and a delicate walk. The look was very successful and copied around the country, and soon high heels were worn by women who wanted to look not just sexy but rich and powerful.
By the 1800s, heels were seen as something very sexy as they emphasized the arch of the foot, associated with the curve of a woman’s body. In the early 1900s, women were giving up long skirts in favor of the flapper girl style, and the shorter skirt meant emphasizing the foot and ankle. Heels were seen as a way to slim down the leg and make it appear slimmer. Since then, heels have been a staple in women’s wardrobes everywhere!