28 January 2013

A brief history of high heels for men

Excerpts from a story at the BBC:
For generations they have signified femininity and glamour - but a pair of high heels was once an essential accessory for men... 

"The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the near east as a form of riding footwear," says Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.  Good horsemanship was essential to the fighting styles of Persia - the historical name for modern-day Iran. "When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively," says Semmelhack...
A wave of interest in all things Persian passed through Western Europe. Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats... As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes - and the high heel was born...

Although Europeans were first attracted to heels because the Persian connection gave them a macho air, a craze in women's fashion for adopting elements of men's dress meant their use soon spread to women and children.  "In the 1630s you had women cutting their hair, adding epaulettes to their outfits," says Semmelhack.  "They would smoke pipes, they would wear hats that were very masculine. And this is why women adopted the heel - it was in an effort to masculinise their outfits."..

Men's fashion shifted towards more practical clothing. In England, aristocrats began to wear simplified clothes that were linked to their work managing country estates. It was the beginning of what has been called the Great Male Renunciation, which would see men abandon the wearing of jewellery, bright colours and ostentatious fabrics in favour of a dark, more sober, and homogeneous look...

The 1960s saw a return of low heeled cowboy boots for men and some dandies strutted their stuff in platform shoes in the 1970s.
Photo from the archives of the Bata Shoe Museum.


  1. Man, those look like just about THE most uncomfortable think I could imagine wearing on my feet. I don't know how (or even why, in this day and age, but's that's another issue) women do it. My wife refuses to wear high heels. She maintains that "if you have good legs to start with, you don't need 'em"!

  2. lots of shoe stores, but no "feet" stores.

  3. During the '70's their was a surge of stacked heels for men--I had a pair of brown/orange wingtips with grand, what we called "come f**k me heels", along with my orange and white wool plaid bell bottoms. I wore them gleefully until I happed to see myself reflected in a full length mirror. The image was, well, disarming.

  4. Remember that in centuries past, men (and women) were much shorter than they are today. So height was related to status in society and men wore these crazy high-heeled shoes to get more authority and status. Imagine them wearing those things all day long. (And it's well known that women today also wear their sky-high stilettos to give them a feeling of confidence and authority). Cowboy boots are making a comeback again for men and women....but this time with very high heels, some 6 inches in height. Some men today prefer these boots as a way of gaining height without losing stability.


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