His­tory an­swers

All About History - - CONTENTS - Cloe Hogg

Your ques­tions an­swered

Yes it is and be­lieve it or not, high heels were orig­i­nally val­ued for their prac­ti­cal­ity. Per­sian sol­diers wore thick heels at the bot­tom of their shoes to steady their stance as they stood up in their stir­rups in or­der to shoot their bow and ar­rows ef­fec­tively.

In 1599, the ruler of Per­sia, Shah Ab­bas I, sent his first diplo­matic mis­sion to Europe. Sub­se­quently, in­ter­est in Per­sian cul­ture spread and men of the Euro­pean aris­toc­racy be­gan to wear heels to ap­pear as mas­cu­line as those in the Per­sian cav­alry. As the trend for heels fil­tered down through so­ci­ety, the aris­toc­racy re­sponded by in­creas­ing the height of their shoes fur­ther, to the point where they were com­pletely im­prac­ti­cal. This high­lighted the wealth and sta­tus of the wearer, em­pha­sis­ing that they did not need to work in the fields or in­deed, walk very far.

It wasn’t just a case of sta­tus though – many men, such as King Louis XIV of France, wore high heels to in­crease their height. Un­der Louis, high heels be­came or­nately dec­o­rated and red heels were pop­u­lar at the Palace of Ver­sailles, with King Charles II of Eng­land choos­ing to adopt them at his Restora­tion court.

As women sought to ap­pear man­lier they too be­gan to wear high heels. Dur­ing the En­light­en­ment era, men’s fash­ion shifted to sim­ple, prac­ti­cal cloth­ing and soon the heel be­came as­so­ci­ated with ef­fem­i­nacy. It wasn’t long be­fore women stopped wear­ing them as well and the high heel was not seen again un­til the 19th cen­tury.

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