While some women see high heels as the bane of their lives, most adore a gorgeous pair of heels. In fact, some women have more than 200 pairs in their wardrobes to ensure that there is a pair for every occasion. Most women do not realize that men first wore high heels many centuries ago.
The ancient tombs in Egypt show the earliest pictures of footwear, dating back as far as 4,000BC. In those days, pieces of leather were laced onto the feet and sometimes people wore sandles that were made from woven rushes. It is said that the butchers wore shoes with heels to keep their feet clear of the mess that was involved in their jobs.
Kothorni, or the modern cork or platform shoes were first introduced into the fashion world by male Roman actors in 200 BC. Kothorni is also sometimes spelled cothurni and defined as a knee-high thick soled boot or buskin made of leather or cloth that laces and was worn in Greek or Roman tragedies by actors.Men still wore heels in the 1600s, not as a fashion statement, but for practical purposes. It helped them to keep their feet in the stirrups when riding their horses.
Chopines were worn in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. As a then 14-year old girl, Catherine d’Medici was considered the influence of the modern fashion high heel since she wore 2 inch heels on her wedding day in the 1600s. The shoes made her appear two inches taller. Mary Tudor started wearing high heels at around the same time.
The 1600s was a busy century when it comes to the development of footwear. Chopines, a twenty-four inch high version of the kothorni made an appearance. Women across Europe loved the chopines.
Louise XIV was the inspiration of the ‘Louis Heel’ that was so popular with women and men alike. Louis XIV owned several pairs of 5 inch heels decorated with tiny battle scenes. Marie Antoinette was so fond of shoes that she spent fortunes on them and this is reflected in the Sophia Coppola film of Marie Antoinette’s life, for which Manolo Blahnik designed more than one hundred pairs.
The century spanning from 1850 to 1950 saw the heel staying below 2″. However, Marilyn Monroe and other screen sirens made the stiletto heel popular in the 50s. This shoe was made in Italy. The kitten heel is a miniature version of the high heel and was made fashionable by Audrey Hepburn.