Ever wondered why high heels are almost exclusively worn by women? What if men lifted themselves up a few inches above the ground as well?
Well, technicaly they still do, as some shoes for men do feature flat raised heels, but this is far from the idea of THE high heels. And actually in the past men have worn heeled shoes similar to some of todays women’s high heels.
So what happened? Why men don’t wear high heels today? Especially with the brave pills that the fashion industry is taking regularly one would expect there would be men in heels on the streets by now.
Ironically high heels were actually first worn by men. They were designed as riding footwear. The idea was that the heel would make it easy to keep your feet in the stirrups and allow the horse rider to stand up on them.
These shoes weren’t made for walking, much like most of today’s women’s high heels. They were made just for taking the occasional steps.
According to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, the first riding high heels date back to the 16th Century in Persia. In 1599 the first Persian dipomatic mission was sent to Europe, reports the BBC. The persians visited Russia, Germany and Spain. They wore their heeled shoes whith immediately caught the attention of European aristocrats. They actually saw heeled shoes as masculine and wore them to look more powerful. The heels were something like very fat cones for most of the shoes, but there were other desings too.
The problem was normal people liked these shoes too. So shoemakers started to make them in mass. So the aristocrasy responded by raising the heel height of their shoes even more. Up to the point they started to look a lot like todays high heels. Back in the day though there weren’t much good in the mud. And that was the point – to show everybody you can afford something of no practical value. It’s a part of human nature to flaunt wealth and it isn’t anything new. Back then high heels were ideal for that.
And an interesting tidbid. You may think Christian Louboutin is the one who you should credit with the iconic red soles of high heels. Actually he adopted the style ot Louis XiV of France. He was the first one to wear 4 inch heels that always had red soles…because the dye was expensive.
He even issued an edict saying only members of his court were allowed to wear red heels. It wasn’t actually followed by the people, but the idea of top exclusivity stands.
In the 1630s women wanted to look more like men. That was part of the fashion back then. So slowly but surely they too started to wear heeled shoes. For a while high heels were unisex.
In the 18th Century though things started to change. Men preffered square, chunky heels that were lower. Women started to like thinner and higher heels. Slowly the feminine sexy heels we all know and love today were born.
Then the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment started the notion that men should shift towards practical clothing. Slowly men stopped wearing jewels, all kinds of weird fabric and… heels. This all shifted towards women. They started to release their creativity in the clothes and accessories.
By 1749 men had stopped wearing high heels. Heels were seen as effiminate and foolish. After the French Revolition women stopped wearing them too.
According to Elizabeth Semmelhack, author of the book Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe, in the mid 19th Century as photography was taking off, pornographers started to take erotic pictures of women in thin and feminine high heels. Thus this association led to heels being seen as an erotic adornment for women.
So, to recap, men don’t wear heels because they haven’t done that for literaly centuries. Today’s notion that high heels are reserved for women only further stops the lads from putting on a pair of Louboutins. This doesn’t mean that men don’t love high heels though. They sure do. But they love to watch women wear them. And some men actually do wear heels in private without admitting it publicly.