Ever thought about the history of heels? You may have to bear with us on this one, but heels actually have a much more interesting history than you’d think.
Though modern gentlemen’s shoes tend to have a very minimal heel, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, high heels were originally worn by men. The first heels were worn by Persian soldiers on horseback to make it possible for them to stand up in the stirrups and shoot their bow and arrow without falling off.
When Persian ambassadors from the Ottoman Empire first visited Europe in the late 16th century, they brought their heels with them. European aristocrats were very taken with them, and they soon became a key fashion statement.
As the popularity of heels spread, the richest shoe lovers responded by increasing the height of their heels. Thanks to contemporary fashion icons such as Louis XIV (known for his petite height!), high heels were soon very much entrenched and an expected element of a well to do gentlemen’s outfit.
In the 1630s, there was a trend in women’s fashion to incorporate more masculine styles. Many stylish ladies of the era cut their hair, smoked pipes and, you guessed it, started wearing high heels. This meant that heels slowly became an accepted style of footwear for all members of high society, regardless of whether they were male or female.
High heels remained a gender neutral fashion well into the 17th century, when things began to change. The Enlightenment period generated a lot of focus on men’s education, and as a result of this gentlemen began to wear more practical clothing. This was true even for aristocratic men, who began to wear shoes that more closely resembled those worn by the workers on their estates.
By 1740, the heel on gentlemen’s footwear had gradually evolved into the short stacked heel that is familiar to us today.