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Stepping into History: The Surprising Origin and Evolution of High Heels

Posted on: 2021-04-22

Categories - Fashion , Culture

What if I tell you that High Heels were made of men and not women. Unless you are a fashion historian, this news might come as a surprise. There is an interesting cultural angle to the fact, how women adopted to wear sometimes painful, sometimes uncomfortable high heels. Moreover, the history of anything makes the object more interesting. The story behind the object holds and unfolds the mystery.

High heels are iconic women's fashion accessories that were originally designed for men in the 17th century. It was supposed to be a practical solution for horseback riding as the foot would lock in stirrup for firm grip during hunting expeditions and battles. In the 1600s, High heels were rooted in practicality. It wasn't long before the fashion-conscious elite caught on to the trend and began wearing high heels as a symbol of their wealth and status

At the dawn of the 18th century high heels became increasingly associated with women’s fashion. Rise of this trend can be attributed to the rise of women’s fashion magazines. Women wearing high heels were popularised by the wide spread magazine. While there was still gender inequality, women were at least aware of the bracket and limitation of being a homemaker. Having said that, advanced shoe making techniques made it easier to make shoes in a variety of shapes and styles and also allowed materials like leather, silk and velvet. Which helped the exploration of design catered to the taste of female clientele.

By the 19th century, High heels became a staple of women’s fashion. Fashion designers began to experiment with new styles while drawing inspiration from the past. Said so, one of the most famous styles of high heels were ‘Louis heel”, named after King Louis XIV of France and featured a curved shape that was both elegant and practical. More lower and more comfortable options like ‘wedge heel’ and ‘kitten heel’ were also brought to market for women who are less traditional and easy on feet and spine.

In the 20th century, high heels continued to evolve and became more popular.  Stiletto heels invented in the 1950s created ripples in the fashion world and earned the spot of most desired type of heels.The stiletto heel was tall, slim, and sexy, and it remains one of the most iconic high heel styles to this day. The style that assimilated with women who were stepping out of households to not only socialise, but also work and earn. To stand on their own feet.

Today High heels are more than fashion. They have become symbols of confidence, Power and Femininity. High heels that started its journey on horseback in battles and hunting parties now have found a place in the world and hearts of ladies. They continue to wear heels from catwalks to the boardroom to express individual style and personality. Hence next time when you slip your feet in those heels like cinderella, remember you are stepping into something more than as an accessory. You're carrying on a tradition that dates back centuries.