Fashion & Style

The history of high heels

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Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe plays a prominent part in the history of high heels
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High heels have been around for a long time, even B.C.

“Nothing has been invented yet that will do a better job than high heels at making a good pair of legs look great, or great ones look fabulous.” -- shoe designer Stuart Weitzman

“It is all very well for so-called sensible people to recommend flat heels and short skirts, but most of us prefer not to be sensible." -- Anna Held, Polish-born stage performer

The history of the torture device. ----  Oh, that was supposed to say the history of HIGH HEELS.

High heels are a glorious invention and can make your legs look fabulous. High heels add height to your frame and turn an ordinary outfit into a a drop dead ensemble.

But they can be very hard on your feet. Learning how to walk in high heels can be challenging. If you are four years old and a female, you better start practicing now.

High heels are not a new invention. They’ve been around for centuries. In fact, some of the vertically challenged women of yore, such Bloody Mary (Mary Tudor), wore high heels and this was in the 14th century. Catherine d’Medici, who said “I do” at the meager age of 14 to the Duke or Orleans (1533) wore two inch heels to make her look taller. Marie Antoinette wore two-inch heels as she ascended the scaffold to get her head whacked off. Stylish to the bitter end.

Back in the B.C. era, most people went barefooted. However, there are images of the upper class wearing shoes that featured heels. In an interesting aside, the butchers of Egypt wore high heeled shoes but not because the wanted to look fashionable. This allowed them to walk above, rather than through, the blood that was the result of butchering animals.

Apparently the prostitutes of ancient Rome knew all the tricks ... including wearing high heels. They could be easily identified by their high heeled shoes. It should be duly noted that Chinese concubines and Turkish odalisques, which is an enslaved woman, wore high shoes which makes historical scholars wonder if the shoes were used to prevent these “ladies” from leaving the harem, rather than for aesthetic purposes. It’s kind of hard to make a break for it while wearing stilettos.

Historically, there is no way of getting around the fact that the foot and shoe has long been associated with phallic symbols, fertility, indicators of gender, ethnicity, race and class and that probably hasn’t change a whole lot, although the shoe wearers may or may not be aware of all of the symbolism attached to their footwear. Some people are so enthralled with feet and shoes that they become fetishes.

High heels come in various styles and heel widths including stilettos for those of you who are brave enough to wear them. Stilettos are the creation of Italian shoemakers, who invented them in the mid 1950s. These shoes have very tall, slim heels and pointed toes.

Shoes made of cork or wood pedestals that were two feet high and called chopines were de rigeur in France, Spain and Italy in the mid 1500s among the ladies. The chopines that sometimes as high as 30 inches were reportedly invented by husbands who figured the inability to walk easily or fast in these shoes might effectively curtail any illicit liaisons that their wives might have in mind. There’s always a catch or ulterior motive.

When shoes were made in two pieces, rather than one, this is when the heel was introduced. The heel had a function and that was to hold a rider’s foot in the stirrup.

You can wear a high heel that isn’t that high. A 2.5 inch heel is still a high heel although it is technically considered a low heel. Mid heel shoes have heels that are anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Anything higher than that is a genuine high heel.

In recent times we have seen Lady Gaga in ridiculously high shoes that are often more platform-like than stiletto but equally as high, if not higher, and potentially dangerous. If you lose your balance while wearing high heels and crumble to the ground you are not the first woman to do so. It's tough being fashionable. That's why some women say the heck with it and wear flats or tennis shoes. For them, comfort is more important than style. Actress Cybill Shepherd was famous for wearing sneakers under her red carpet gowns.

High heels are great looking but they can also be crippling. There is power in being tall and there is power in looking authoritative and sexy, which is easily accomplished when your feet are slipped into some kick-butt high heels. Many women choose to ignore the pain that high heels cause them while others claim that high heeled shoes do not bother them. Some women opt to wear insoles in their high heels, which gives them comfort and support.

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