Today, heels are an integral part of women’s fashion. Elaine Turner, a Texas-based fashion brand, claims that heels are so ingrained in our fashion sense that women pair it with all kinds of looks, from glamorous ensembles to dressed down chic.
Heels, however, weren’t created for women. They weren’t even created in the name of fashion. In the 17th century, men wore heels to win wars.
The Equestrian Function of Heels
Elizabeth Semmelhack, the senior curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, stated that people started making heeled shoes in the 10th century. Persian men wore them so their feet would fit better in the stirrups while on horseback. Persia prided itself on its soldiers’ horsemanship, so fighting men needed heels to secure their stances as they shot their arrows while riding.
Europe in Heels
As the 16th century ended, Persian leader Shah Abbas I wanted to forge alliances with the heads of Western Europe. So, in 1599, he sent the first Persian diplomatic mission to Russia, Germany, and Spain. The European noblemen started adopting the shoes worn by the Persian ambassadors because they thought they gave them a masculine edge.
For Want of a Dainty Foot
In the 1630s, European women started copying men’s fashion. Women smoked pipes, wore hats, cut their hair, and donned heeled shoes. People wore unisex heels until the end of the 17th century, when men’s heels became square and stocky, while women’s heels became long and slender.
Beauty standards that time dictated that women should have small feet. The high heel of a shoe hid most of the woman’s foot under her skirt and gave her the illusion of a dainty foot.
Fashion during the Enlightenment
Men began putting greater emphasis on education and practicality during the Enlightenment. They dropped the bold colors and wore simple clothes that reflected their work. They stopped wearing heels because they were impractical. It was a different story for women, though. They continued to wear heels until its popularity plummeted after the French Revolution.
Heels resurfaced in the mid-19th century when women began using heels to project an ideal image in photographs. Since then, heels have evolved and now come in a variety of styles. Today, heels are no longer a symbol of prowess in war; rather, it became a symbol of beauty and female power.