Ever wondered who invented the HIGH HEEL? That spike at the back of our shoe – that arches our foot, elongates our leg, slims our silhouette and unleashes a sense of confidence and prowess in it’s wearer?
Well, it dates back to the Egyptians. Trust Cleopatra! Did you also know, that both men and women wore heels through the Middle Ages? A sign of stature and wealth, as well as keeping their finery out of the mud!
We have detailed a timeline of the history of the infamous heel. Maybe good for a fashion trivia night!
Earliest depictions of shoes (flexible leather pieces held in place with lacings) in ancient Egyptian murals on tombs and temples.
Platform sandals called kothorni, with high wood or cork soles, become popular among Roman tragic actors.
At Saxon weddings, the father of the bride would present the groom with one of the bride’s shoes, symbolising transfer of his authority over her. The bride’s shoe is thrown to the bridesmaids; the one who catches it will be next to marry.
King Henry II of England sported narrow shoes with pointed toes. (Legend says they hid his deformed toes).
Knights of Richard the Lionhearted began to wear sollerets, downward curving pointed toes, to keep their feet from slipping out of stirrups.
A law passed in Paris banned professors from wearing shoes with long, pointed toes. However, shoe toes, became a symbol of rank, they grew longer and pointier over the next two centuries. Kings and princes sometimes wore toes 30 inches long.
Shoes began to be made in two pieces, with a flexible upper attached to a heavier, stiffer sole. This led to the introduction of the heel, allowing horsemen to keep their foot in the stirrup. Heeled boots for men quickly become fashionable.
Henry VIII of England preferred wide-toed shoes, sometimes 12 inches across, which had to be stuffed to keep them on his feet.
Italian bride Catherine d’Medici, married at 14, to the Duke of Orleans. She wore shoes with two-inch heels to conceal her short height. The high heel may have been invented by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”), another vertically challenged monarch, wore heels as high as possible. From this period until the early 19th century, high heels are very fashionable for both men and women.
An extreme shoe style called chopines, became popular among women in Italy, Spain and France. It had a pedestal of cork or wood 24 inches tall. A Venetian lady wearing chopines needed two servants to help her in and out of a gondola.
French shoemaker Nicholas Lestage, became shoemaker to Louis XIV. The heels of Louis’s shoes are decorated with miniature battle scenes, are as tall as five inches. High “Louis” heels become very popular.
King Louis 1700-xiv ……. King Louis heel 1760
Madame de Pompadour, tiny-footed favorite of Louis XV, introduces high, narrow “Pompadour” heels. The shoes are very short, so ladies taped their feet to reduce their apparent size and faint at court.
Marie Antoinette ascends the scaffold to be executed wearing two-inch heels.
Quincy Reed opens America’s first retail shoe store in Boston. Around this period, Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) invents machines for cutting soles and attaching them to uppers.
Flat shoes and Grecian-style sandals become popular.
The “sneaker” or plimsoll, a canvas-topped, rubber-soled shoe, is invented for badminton and tennis. Ladies’ heel heights vary but stayed below two inches during the rest of the century.
The ladies’ “pump” or court shoe, a British invention, reaches America. It’s huge.
Tall “stiletto” heel was invented in Italy and became a fashion rage. Very pointed toes came into vogue for both sexes.
Return of the platform shoe.
Athletic shoes diversify and gain popularity. Some women begin wearing them to work or for commuting. The stiletto reigned.
Chunky shoes – platform sneakers with layers of rubber, Doc Martens and combat boots.