Could you imagine being a soldier riding a horse into battle wearing a pair of stilettos? As crazy as that may sound, it’s nearly historically accurate - except stilettos weren’t invented for another 1,000 years.
Though they are more commonly worn by women today, high heels were originally made for men. High heels have enjoyed a largely unisex appreciation spanning many centuries and only became female coded in the last 300 years. Throughout history, the public opinion on how these fashionable yet painful shoes should look and feel and who should wear them has vacillated.
High heels are an evocative symbol of power today. While these elements have remained consistent dating back to their early days, they also represented many more things: independence, social standing, self-importance, masculinity, and strength. Heel wearers were lauded for their fashion sense and despised for their perceived arrogance.
As frivolous as dress shoes might seem, the origin of high heels is a microcosm of Western gender relations throughout the last millennium.
900s: High Heels Are Used In Horseback-Riding Cultures To Keep Feet In Stirrups
1500s: High Heels Are Worn By Courtesans
1500s: Aristocratic Women Wear Heels To Indicate Status
1600s: Persian Migrants Bring Heels To Europe, Where Men Wear Them To Appear More Formidable
1700s: King Louis XIV Introduces High Heels With Red Soles To The French Court
1700s: Men's Heels Become More Broad And Sturdy, While Women's Become More Decorative