At the present time, shoes with heels are an essential component of a woman’s wardrobe. Shoes with heels are worn to various important meetings, social events, parties, and dates. However, the original role of shoes with heels was intended to be different.
It would appear that no-one really knows for sure who exactly invented heels. On the one hand, it could have been the Egyptians. In Ancient Egypt, people wore shoes with heels in the fields, as it was easier to walk in the turned over soil. On the other hand, it could have been the ancient Greeks. They needed to wear heels in the theatre. Actors wore special shoes on high platforms – kothorni. So the higher the platform was, the more important was the character portrayed. According to another theory, heels were first worn for horse-riding.
The modern heel as we know it emerged not that long ago. There are a number of accounts of its emergence; according to one of them, boots with heels – bluchers – were first worn by some French officer. It is believed that he convinced his shoemaker to attach to the sole of his cavalry boot near the heel layered rectangles of leather so that the foot would catch in the stirrup better. According to another version, the heels were worn by the Mongol cavalry of the Golden Horde, again for the same reason: to give the boot a better hold in the stirrup.
The fashion for ladies’ heels was introduced in the 15th century by Venetian courtesans, although it was not the heel as such, but a shoe on high cylindrical platforms – the chopine. Walking on such heels was highly problematic, as the height of the platform at times reached 42cm! In the middle of the 15th century, chopines were banned, but the fashion couldn’t stop there.
The next important event in the history of heels happened in the first part of the 16th century. Catherine de Medici, known for her love of thin waistlines and corsets, was getting married to the French prince Henri de Valois. Because Catherine was short, she arrived at the wedding wearing heels, thereby giving royal blessing to the fashion for heels for both men and women.
In the beginning, men’s boots with heels were worn by the military. In the 17th century, boots with heels became fashionable in civilian life. It is believed that the fashion for boots with heels emerged thanks to Louis XIV, who was quite short. Ladies of that time wore shoes made of leather and brocade, with a curved heel and a sharp nose. Such shoes were often decorated with bows and flowers. And, by the way, approximately at that time, left and right shoes started to be differentiated. Before that, there was no difference whatsoever between a left and a right shoemaker’s last.
In the 18th century, the heels became exclusively confined to ladies’ fashion. The shoes of that period were high and narrow. A little bit later, doctors started criticizing the fashion and the heel gave way to flatter platforms. These shoes were nicknamed mules.
In Russia at that time, popular shoes were called “barkhatsy” – they were bright formal boots with curled up noses, although only the rich could afford them.
Heels again became popular in the middle of the 19th century, when some craftsmen came up with the idea of the kitten heel. And the famous stilettos only emerged in 1950 – they were created by the Dior fashion house. Needless to say, they became hugely popular. To the present day, every woman has in her wardrobe at least one pair of stilettos.