My buddy Kate forwarded me a fascinating story outlining the history of high heels. Believe it or not, they were originally worn by dudes. To get the full background, check out When Did Men Stop Wearing High Heels?
In a nutshell, this is what happened:
First, around the 16th century, heels became a part of upper-class men’s foot wear to ease horseback riding Essentially they fit better in stirrups. Makes sense. But when heels started migrating down to the lower classes, then the nobility had to differentiate themselves. So what did they do? They raised their heels higher! Now you’d think, wouldn’t it be a royal (ha ha) pain to walk on cobble stones and tons of garbage in high heels? Well, that was the point. The very fact that heels made “normal” travel impossible distinguished those who had to walk from those who got rides. Sounds eerily familiar, eh?
Women started to wear heels in the 17th century, not to look sexy, but to look more masculine. Heels became unisex.
By the age of Enlightenment (@ the 18th century) the big shift happened. As notions of practicality and reason pervaded culture, men eschewed heels (as well as other frilly adornments) for their impractically. Women held on to theirs because women were seen as the more “emotional, impractical” sex. Heels only emphasized this gender difference.
When do fashions truly take hold? When the WHOLE world sees them. And that’s what happened at the dawn of photography. Interestingly, the first shots of women were those taken by pornographers whose intent was to emphasize women’s femininity (duh). Heels were, of course, part of the attire (or lack of, I should say). These photos imprinted in people’s minds the tight linkage between femininity and heels.
While dandy-ism and cross-dressing brought about a return to somewhat higher heels for men, the fashion never returned en masse. Would I be totally old-school to say, “thank goodness?” It’s not that I want to restrict anyone from expressing himself, but I have to say, impractical or not, heels are an awesome source of my power and I’m not willing to share them!