History of high heels: From manly to ultimate femininity

History of high heels: From manly to ultimate femininity

May 23, 2013 | Vintage Fashion | 0 comments
black high heels

High heels: we all love them
. Nowadays they symbolize femininity. Women love to wear them, men love to watch women with high heels pass by. Meanwhile wondering: how do they walk on those things.… Which is an art indeed, because originally high heeled shoes weren’t meant for walking (or running or whatsoever).

In fact, they weren’t even meant for women in the first place, but for (high classed) men!

Rewind to the 1600s. Men were the first who wore a heeled shoe. A high heeled shoe for men indicated great wealth and was therefore a symbol of status. The more uncomfortable and non-practical the shoe was, the bigger your status…

Back then, heeled shoes were seen as a masculine accessoire. This shoe, a 17th century persian shoe (originally made for horse riding), caused a craze in the 17th century:

This craze also affected women. Fashion and style for women was quite manly back then: from smoking to typical masculine hats. In other words women gladly supported the new shoe trend. So the unisex heeled shoe was born.

As alsways, fashion trends are picked up by everyone: from high to low classes. Of course the high classed folks had to do something. They wanted to distinguish themselves with higher heeled shoes than the lower class. Obviously their motto was: low class –> low heeled and high class –>high heeled!

Well, the rich people didn’t stop there. For example in the 1670s, Louis XIV’s trademark shoes had a red sole. Heeled shoes with that color apparently symbolized power in that period. (Wait…flashforward: ahaa Christian Louboutin, I see what you did there!)

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heeled shoe Louis XIV
 via mentalfloss.com. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons


Left: a red sole shoe in 1701 | Right: a red sole Louboutin
red sole shoe Louboutin
Source both pictures: bbc.co.uk

At the end of the 17th century things began to change. The high heeled shoes as we know them now, began to evolve. Heeled shoes for women started to become more…slim, curvy and feminine. On the other hand men shoes became more  robust, square and (very important) lower heeled. Not only shoe fashion was changing, but fashion overall. Women’s fashion became adjusted to the female body. In the 17th century men’s fashion was very colorful and bright with a lot of jewellery to finish the look. In the 18th century men’s fashion became more smooth with dark colors and no jewellery. Around the mid 18th century, the high heeled shoes were completely vanished in men fashion.

The high heel actually also disappeared in women fashion after the french revolution. But…only to make an immense comeback in the mid-19th century with a new image.

Photography had an immense influence on the new image of women. One fine day someone discovered how high heels just do wonders for the female body. And that was the point of no return. Especially drawings of pin up models with high heels, boosted the ultimate feminine image. From there on: high heels were directly linked to femininity and glamour. And men on high heels? That became a big no-no (and that no-no is still going strong).

red high heels

Some things actually haven’t changed. Back then, heels were unpractical and not made for walking. But… you had to do something to show off your power and wealth. Now, heels are still getting higher and obviously not always practical, but we accept it because: no gain, without pain. High heels are an instant beautifier for any outfit.

Now I must say, designers can go too far nowadays with those high heels…


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Source both pictures: buzzfeed.com
 …don’t you think ;-)?
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