The high heel shoe – woman’s most prized possession. Fashion enthusiasts have quarreled for centuries about its true origin without ever agreeing on one source. Some say it originated in Venice, where prostitutes strapped chopines – a stilt/platform-like sandal – to their feet in order to attract attention. Others believe the high heel was originally designed for functionality in the Near East, specifically for equestrian riders so they could better grip the stirrup.
Regardless of its origin, the high heel continues to be a coveted fashion item in modern times.
Men Wore Them First
Though there were aristocratic women who wore high heels in the 1600 and previous, men were notorious for flaunting their legs while towering above their inferiors. Royal and wealthy men wore heels to demonstrate their high-class because only those who had to work for a living would dare wear practical shoes!
In fact, the high heel was heavily adopted by women in the upper class as a way to appear more powerful and masculine rather than to flaunt their femininity. Eventually, as all fashionable things do, the style filtered down to the lower classes where women heavily favored the look while men were less likely to wear them due to their impracticality.
Before There Were Designer Brands
Though there were clearly shoe designers back then, the distinction between rich and poor wasn’t made by who owned an expensive designer’s apparel and who wore the less expensive knock-off version. Instead, the rich steadily increased the height on their heels as the commoners adopted the style.
This goes hand-in-hand with the switch from men’s wear to women’s wear. Once men discovered that the high heel shoe was transitioning into a mark of femininity – and aren’t you all glad it did? – they ditched the heel in order to regain their masculinity.
High Heels Are More Than Just A Fashion Statement
As you begin talking about high heels in public, be prepared for a Segway into feminism and Equal Rights. High heels have become so ingrained with femininity that controversy after controversy has surrounded them throughout modern times.
Most recently, you may remember the incident at the Cannes Film Festival, where the theme was to be “le femme.” A security guard would not allow a woman entrance to the event simply because she was not wearing heels. The festival was shamed on social media for weeks after the incident, claiming that Hollywood has discriminated against women yet again.
High heels went from a men’s show of power, to encompass all of femininity and it’s unlikely that it will ever be freed from that role.
Women’s Mark Of Power
Though all women can agree that high heels should not grant or deny women access to anything in their professional or social life, we can agree that when we wear heels we feel different as well as appear different.
Most women with high executive or ownership roles wear heels at the office and while presenting in front of investors. High heels bring women more height, making them appear more powerful and more important than their male coworkers and peers. Heels also change a woman’s posture, allowing her to appear more confident and professional. Shoes are, scientifically, one of the first things that we judge about another person. For women, the high heel shoe is seen as a mark of sophistication and power.
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