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The Origin of High Heels, Once Worn Only By Men

Currently considered symbols of elegance and femininity, high-heeled shoes were once strictly masculine accessories. High-heeled shoes are now used only by women, but history shows us that it was not always so. In reality shoes with high heels were used by men in different periods of history. Although today we wear high heels for aesthetic reasons, in the past they were used for different motives. In history, the height of the shoes comunicated the social class of the person who wore them. It is not clear where the heels first appeared, but it is possible that they have been used by actors in ancient Greece. “Kothorni” was a type of footwear worn around the second century BC. They had high platforms made of wood or cork, 8-10 cm in

Currently considered symbols of elegance and femininity, high-heeled shoes were once strictly masculine accessories.

High-heeled shoes are now used only by women, but history shows us that it was not always so. In reality shoes with high heels were used by men in different periods of history. Although today we wear high heels for aesthetic reasons, in the past they were used for different motives.

In history, the height of the shoes comunicated the social class of the person who wore them.

It is not clear where the heels first appeared, but it is possible that they have been used by actors in ancient Greece. “Kothorni” was a type of footwear worn around the second century BC. They had high platforms made of wood or cork, 8-10 cm in height.  The height of the shoes indicated the character’s social status or importance. In other words, the heels were not used for aesthetic reasons, but only by a professional group, such as the actors.

The heels then reappeared in the Middle Ages in Europe. During this time, both men and women used a type of footwear called “sandal”. The streets of medieval Europe cities were dirty and the shoes of that era were delicate and expensive. Therefore, to avoid wearing them down, men and women wore these sandals. While sandals were used because they were practical, another European footwear was used because it was symbolic.

Thus, ”chopines” was a type of shoe used by women in Venetian society between the fifteenth and seventeenth century. The taller they were, the higher the social status. Sometimes ”chopines” even reached 50cm in hight, and as we can imagine, were not that practical. So women needed to be helped in order to maintain balance. But wealth and social status was not only demonstrated  by the height of the shoes, but also by the fact that these rich women had maids who helped them. The sandals and these chopines were some kind of platforms without heels.

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To find the modern heels, we must leave behind the streets of medieval Europe and travel to eastern Persia. It is not known exactly when it started in Persia, but the inscriptions found on a ceramic pot suggests the Ninth Century. 

At the end of the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century, many Persian diplomats were sent to Europe to obtain alliances against a common enemy: the Ottoman Empire. It is said that after meeting with the Persians, European aristocrats adopted the heels as a symbol of masculinity and social status.

In the eighteenth century, women also used heels, with a tendency for women to adopt the male fashion. This could be interpreted as an attempt to achieve equality and obtain power.

The male obsession for heels has ended in the eighteenth century, when there were various changes in their way of thinking and the way men dressed. A sober man began to wear austere clothes and an extravagant one used heels, makeup and an eccentric attire.

Among the most avid collectors and people who wore heels was King Louis XIV. Not only because the king loved luxury and fashion, but also because he was not that tall (1.63 m or 5.3 feet). Consequently, his shoes had heels of 10 centimeters. On them there were painted different battle scenes and the heels were always red.

It is curious that for a period of time women gave up on wearing heels because they were not practical. But the trend has returned in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Among the first groups of women that worn heels,  the models who posed for magazines and stores stood out, because they were using heels to emphasize their silhouette. This could be the beginning of an association between heels and feminine beauty.

Then, as the saying goes, the rest is history…

Also Read:
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Inside the Mysterious World of Coco Chanel


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