Every lady loves a good heel. Not only do they transform your outfit but they also give you a more elegant posture. Heels come in a variety of forms: there are the platform heels, wedge heels, stiletto heels, block heels, kitten heels, spool heels, and comma heels (yes, comma as in the punctuation), among others.
The rampant, almost exclusive wear of heels by the female folk makes it almost impossible to think that high heels were initially worn by men. If you want to find out why and how this shoe style was worn by men in the past, buckle up and let’s go back in time.
The history of high heels can be traced back to ancient Greece. The heels were designed in the form of sandals. They were worn by Grecian actors about 200 BC. The high heel was called ‘kothorni’. The Kothorni was a form of sandal with cork soles that measured between 8 and 10 cm. During this period, the shoe was not worn for any aesthetic purpose; it was simply worn by members of a particular profession – actors. The Kothorni was of varying height. The height of the soles was determined by the role an actor was to play: it depicted the difference in importance and social classes of each character on the stage.
The heel was adopted by Persian soldiers around the 10th century. Again just like in ancient Greece, these heels served a functional purpose. The soldiers used the heels to support their balance on stirrups.
By the 17th century, however, the heels became a norm for Persian riders both on their horses and off their horses. Heeled shoes during this period served a less functional purpose, and were rather used as a means of class distinction: it signified class and wealth.
The cowboy boots and Chelsea boots design draws inspiration from the one-inch Persian heels.
The heeled shoe trend got to Europe in the 17th century as a result of diplomatic relations between Persia and the states of Europe. This trend was widely accepted by European Aristocrats.
The high heeled trend was popularized by the French Monarch Louis XIV in the 17th century. He was perhaps the most famous wearer of the heels in history (who knew the Sun king was fashion savvy!). You must have come across his pictures a time or two in history books or other related media. His signature look was the red heels (his very own loubotins!). He had his heels covered in red Moroccan leather or had them painted in that color. So invested was he in heeled shoes that he passed an edict in 1670 stating that only nobility could wear heels.
While men started the high heels trend, women also wore their own form of heels such as Chopines. Chopines were worn by European women between the 15th century and the 17th century. The heels of Chopines were ridiculously high – up to 54cm and the women had to lean on their maids to walk due to the ridiculous height of the heels. The heels despite its ridiculousness served a functional purpose. It served as outerwear; it was used to cover or protect the women’s actual shoes from mud and dirt. Chopines served as an indicator of social status and was popular in Venice and Spain.
By the 19th century, men stopped wearing heels. The Victorian era was well underway by the mid 19th century and during this era, it became increasingly acceptable for women to wear heels. Men had to stop wearing heels due to their perceived feminization. Men’s shoes became lower in heel and sturdier. The only remains of the high heeled trend in men’s fashion are the Chelsea boots which have about 1–inch heel.