A Very Short History of High Heels; From a Status Symbol to a Sensual Accessory
I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.
~ Marilyn Monroe
What is the first thing that comes to your head when you think about high heels?
I think of elegance and grace. I remember being a five-year-old girl and sneaking away the heels of my aunt, walking them up and down suddenly so strong, so brave - they had granted me with superpowers I had never even known of. My mother was the very opposite; she hated makeup, nail polish, heels and anything which - as she'd say - served as a male tool for female oppression (you can imagine how she reacted when I sew my first victorian corset out of an old set of curtains). Nevertheless I don't want to bore you today with old childhood stories, today I want to introduce you to a fascinating (and most of all unexpected) short history of high heels. Go get popcorn...
What's interesting here is that high heels were originally a trend for men. Back in the fourteenth century knights used them in battle, not only to appear taller, but as a mean to remain put in their stirrups and, as consequence, improve their fighting style.
The use of them briskly spread across the male European aristocracy, who began wearing them for aesthetic and status purposes (only those who didn't have a need of working or walking too much were the ones who could afford the luxury of owning impractical shoes).
However the trend didn't take too long to trickle down to the lower classes - and therefore, as result - high heels for the elite were made higher and higher.
It wasn't until the mid-seventeenth century when women began to copy this fashion in an attempt of "masculinizing" their appearance - which slowly prompted men to stop wearing them to avoid looking feminine.
This, along with society’s shift during the the Enlightenment (when men renounced to beautify themselves, adopting instead a more practical and simple appearance) left high heels exclusively for the use of women. The trend remained shyly among them until the pornographic mid-nineteenth century postcards brought high heels back with a sexual appeal they never had before and with which they are associated today.
Heels reached their peak in the 1940s when technology allowed the stiletto to be thinner, higher and more stable. Charming thousands of women worldwide.
The use of them shapes the body in ways which - coincidentally - determine biological markers of mating attraction; a gentle hip wiggle, higher chest, perkier derrière...
So, no - they were not invented by a group of men who wanted us to be easy targets by running away slower like my mom told me. They were weapons of strength used by knights during battle...
... And I unapologetically adore them.