Why did men stop wearing high heels?
2013 01 25

By William Kremer | BBCNews




For generations they have signified femininity and glamour - but a pair of high heels was once an essential accessory for men.

Beautiful, provocative, sexy - high heels may be all these things and more, but even their most ardent fans wouldnít claim they were practical.

Theyíre no good for hiking or driving. They get stuck in things. Women in heels are advised to stay off the grass - and also ice, cobbled streets and posh floors.

And high heels donít tend to be very comfortable. It is almost as though they just werenít designed for walking in.

Originally, they werenít.

"The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the near east as a form of riding footwear," says Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

Good horsemanship was essential to the fighting styles of the Persia - the historical name for modern-day Iran.

"When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively," says Semmelhack.

At the end of the 16th Century, Persiaís Shah Abbas I had the largest cavalry in the world. He was keen to forge links with rulers in Western Europe to help him defeat his great enemy, the Ottoman Empire.


A menís 17th Century Persian shoe, covered in shagreen - horse-hide with pressed mustard seeds


So in 1599, Abbas sent the first Persian diplomatic mission to Europe - it called on the courts of Russia, Germany and Spain.

A wave of interest in all things Persian passed through Western Europe. Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats, who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that, it suddenly seemed, only heeled shoes could supply.


Louis XIV wearing his trademark heels in a 1701 portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud
As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes - and the high heel was born.

In the muddy, rutted streets of 17th Century Europe, these new shoes had no utility value whatsoever - but that was the point.

"One of the best ways that status can be conveyed is through impracticality," says Semmelhack, adding that the upper classes have always used impractical, uncomfortable and luxurious clothing to announce their privileged status.

"They arenít in the fields working and they donít have to walk far."

When it comes to historyís most notable shoe collectors, the Imelda Marcos of his day was arguably Louis XIV of France. For a great king, he was rather diminutively proportioned at only 5ft 4in (1.63m).

He supplemented his stature by a further 4in (10cm) with heels, often elaborately decorated with depictions of battle scenes.

The heels and soles were always red - the dye was expensive and carried a martial overtone. The fashion soon spread overseas - Charles II of Englandís coronation portrait of 1661 features him wearing a pair of enormous red, French style heels - although he was over 6ft (1.85m) to begin with.

In the 1670s, Louis XIV issued an edict that only members of his court were allowed to wear red heels. In theory, all anyone in French society had to do to check whether someone was in favour with the king was to glance downwards. In practice, unauthorised, imitation heels were available.


Although Europeans were first attracted to heels because the Persian connection gave them a macho air, a craze in womenís fashion for adopting elements of menís dress meant their use soon spread to women and children.

"In the 1630s you had women cutting their hair, adding epaulettes to their outfits," says Semmelhack.

"They would smoke pipes, they would wear hats that were very masculine. And this is why women adopted the heel - it was in an effort to masculinise their outfits."

From that time, Europeís upper classes followed a unisex shoe fashion until the end of the 17th Century, when things began to change again.

"You start seeing a change in the heel at this point," says Helen Persson, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. "Men started to have a squarer, more robust, lower, stacky heel, while womenís heels became more slender, more curvaceous."

The toes of womenís shoes were often tapered so that when the tips appeared from her skirts, the wearerís feet appeared to be small and dainty.

Fast forward a few more years and the intellectual movement that came to be known as the Enlightenment brought with it a new respect for the rational and useful and an emphasis on education rather than privilege. Menís fashion shifted towards more practical clothing. In England, aristocrats began to wear simplified clothes that were linked to their work managing country estates.

It was the beginning of what has been called the Great Male Renunciation, which would see men abandon the wearing of jewellery, bright colours and ostentatious fabrics in favour of a dark, more sober, and homogeneous look. Menís clothing no longer operated so clearly as a signifier of social class, but while these boundaries were being blurred, the differences between the sexes became more pronounced.

"There begins a discussion about how men, regardless of station, of birth, if educated could become citizens," says Semmelhack.

"Women, in contrast, were seen as emotional, sentimental and uneducatable. Female desirability begins to be constructed in terms of irrational fashion and the high heel - once separated from its original function of horseback riding - becomes a primary example of impractical dress."

High heels were seen as foolish and effeminate. By 1740 men had stopped wearing them altogether.

But it was only 50 years before they disappeared from womenís feet too, falling out of favour after the French Revolution.

By the time the heel came back into fashion, in the mid-19th Century, photography was transforming the way that fashions - and the female self-image - were constructed.


[...]


Read the full article at: bbc.co.uk






Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

13 years ago this man was accused of abusing 18 girls in Rotherham - so why are police only NOW acting on the claims?
2014 09 02
Comment: As this story finally is getting more and more coverage, letís expose these sick perverts for what they are and get to the root of the problem that enabled horrors like this to not only go unnoticed for such a long time, but also to the heart of why people in law and government denied it and decided to ...
Harvard Professor Noel Ignatiev talks about how to end the White race
2014 09 02
There was some doubt earlier this week as to the validity of the claim in Kevin MacDonaldís article The War Against Whites. Weíll we found something for your guys: Source: youtube.com Not that this is the only one, far from it, this is just a small sample of the barrage of conferences and a well educated cultural marxists that have set their goals ...
Secret underground tunnels of ancient Mesopotamian cult revealed under Ani ruins
2014 09 01
For the first time in history, the academic world is paying attention to the spectacular underground world of Ani, a 5,000-year-old Armenian city located on the Turkish-Armenian border. Hurriyet Daily News reports that scientists, academics, and researchers have just met at a symposium in Kars titled ĎUnderground Secrets of Anií to discuss the cityís underground world mentioned in ancient ...
A Government Vision Of The Future That Isnít That Great
2014 09 01
Hereís a report by the UK Ministry of Defense, a document that theyíre not hiding - itís not classified. In fact, they WANT you to read it: the Global Strategic Trends 2045. For your convenience, theyíve even produced a handy video about their dire predictions: They present a warning call for how things are going to be bad in the future. ...
Bad Memories Turned to Happy Ones in Mice Brains
2014 09 01
Memories are often associated with emotions, and these feelings can change through new experiences and over time. Now, using light, scientists have been able to manipulate mice brain cells and turn the animalsí fearful memories into happy ones, according to a new study. Memories are encoded in groups of neurons that are activated together or in specific patterns, but it is ...
More News Ľ