High Heels! (posted 3rd June 2016)
High heels have been in the press rather a lot lately and not for the right reason. So I thought it would be interesting to have a brief look at high heels! Dating back to circa 3500BC they are defined as “a shoe that has a heel positioned higher than the toe box” and have had some interesting uses and designs over the years!
In Ancient Egypt it’s believed that high heels were worn by both men and women for ceremonial purposes. The heels also distinguished the classes with the lower classes going barefoot. They were also purported to be worn by those who butchered animals, to keep the butchers feet out of the blood!
Kothorni or Buskins
In Ancient Greece high heels called Kothorni or Buskins were worn for theatrical productions and the shoes represented the social status of the character. While in Ancient Rome the shoes became a renowned symbol of prostitution!
Fast-forward several hundred years, and in the fifteenth century the Chopine, a platform shoe, was popular in Europe over the next few hundred years. Outrageously the heels could be up to 30 inches (!) high and unsurprisingly a support cane was needed to walk with them!
During the sixteenth century in France both men and women of the upper classes wore heels, a trend started by Catherine de Medici who was married to the Duke of Orleans, the future King who was much taller than her. Mary Tudor also embraced heels and by 1590 those who had authority and wealth were known as ‘well-heeled’.
Louis XIV of France in his fine, red heels
The mood in England changed in the seventeenth century, with the English Parliament disparaging of women wearing heels (in case they were worn to lure ‘innocent’ men into marriage) branding some as witches! While over in France Louis XIV determined that red high heels could only be worn by the nobility and nobody was allowed to have heels higher than his!
In the nineteenth century high heels came back into fashion. The Victorians embraced them and they were more prolifically made. By the end of the century the heels were as high as six inches and were endorsed as being ‘healthy and comfortable for walking’ as well as ‘a viable cure for backaches’ (www.micar.com).
Today heels come in all shapes and sizes (look at the pictures below). The V&A even had an exhibition titled “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” that looked at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.
A selection of heels, from those worn by Lady Gaga to those made by Christian Louboutin and Alexander McQueen.
Without getting into a gender bias, today they are mostly associated with women, you certainly won’t see a business man show up to a meeting in the city wearing a pair of Louboutins! As we come to the topic of high heels today, it would be remiss to mention the motivation behind this blog post: that there are companies who still require women to wear heels to work as part of the dress code, despite the fact that they may hurt and cause long-term injury (here is the link for the petition to make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels to work). Now I’m not against heels – I love them. They are beautiful and yes, they make your legs look longer! But if I’m going out and will need to do any amount of walking, you can probably guarantee that I’ll have a pair of flats in my bag too! And if I was walking about all day I would probably be grimacing a smile as I hobbled! I salute the woman who elegantly glide around in their heels, it takes practise and stamina! But I do think it should be the individual's choice!
What are your thoughts on women having to wear high heels to work?
Have a great weekend,