The Surprisingly Practical History of High Heels
Spoiler alert: they were originally invented for men!
There are countless reasons why modern women wear high heels. Not only are they universally flattering, they’re also the perfect way to elevate any outfit. And while they’re not exactly practical, they sure do wonders for a silhouette!
So you can understand our surprise when we learned recently that high heels were created to serve a decidedly practical purpose. And not only that, that they were originally invented for men.
As Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, explained to Today, the history of the high heel can be traced back to Persian men in the 10th century. According to Semmelhack, these pioneering fellas wore heels while on horseback to make their feet fit better in the stirrups. And by the 17th century, the look had taken off in Europe.
"There is a long history of men wearing heels for equestrian purposes," Semmelhack told Today. "As we know, cowboys wear heels."
It wasn’t until the 18th century that women began to wear high heels. The reason? Not too look good in a dress, but to make their feet look smaller, Semmelhack noted.
"As beauty ideals shifted, one of the principles that emerged was that beautiful women had very tiny feet," she explained. "(The high heel) hid the majority of a woman's foot under her skirt, so she could just present the tiny part of the shoe, the toes, from under the skirt.”
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"People say all the time that women wear heels because it elongates their legs or makes them taller or thinner, but that use of the high heel is very recent," Semmelhack continued. "Early on, it had nothing to do with lengthening the leg, because legs were hidden under skirts, so no one cared! It was about presenting a small foot."
How about that, ladies?