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High Heels Are Bad But Where Do They Come From?

I recently did an interview for a magazine on high heels. It was all about back biomechanics and other boring subjects.

However it got me thinking about how strange it was that high heels are so common in our society, and why that may be. And so I thought I might go on a little researching adventure for your reading pleasure.

Ignoring the butchers of ancient Egypt and the prostitutes of Ancient Rome the fashion of heels that we know and love(?) today evolved out of medieval Europe.

The Ottoman horsebound warriors of the 15th century were known to wear heeled shoes that gave them extra leverage when they feet were in stirrups.

The Ottomans clattered around Europe defeating all comers throughout the 15th century and so when in 1529 Suleiman the Great and his host fled their attempted Siege of Vienna Europe had grown pretty used to the image/aesthetic of Strong Men in High Heels.

The Ottoman’s fled leaving the image of high heels and apple pastries in their wake. The pastries would go on to become Apple Strudels, the national dish of Austria. And heels would dominate Western European fashion circles for the next 300 years.

Initially male, horse bound types wore them, then the nobility began wearing them, and then in attempt at looking look the noblemen noblewomen began wearing them and then even the plebs got in on the act.

Heels grew in size, became fatter and broader for men, skinnier and taller for women, and they were constantly changing to create a new aesthetic that would differentiate them from the plebs.

BOOM!!!! French Revolution!!!!! Class based system thrown out!! Egalitarianism!!! Liberty!!! Fraternity!!!!! Crazy class based violence!!!! Crazy violence and death !!!!!

1799 Napolean wrestles control from the few revolutionaries that managed to keep their head. And in an effort to keep some links to the principles of the Revolution he ordains himself in…. flat shoes.

And thus heels disappeared…..

Until they reappeared in mid 19th century pornography and were associated with small feminine feet, as opposed to the flat ugly feet of poor indentured workers and, lets be honest, black slaves.

And then the Great Depression eradicated them once again.

Only for the post World War 1950’s movie stars to make them glamorous once again.

And now….. well… in 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that $38.5 billion was spent on high heels in the USA alone.

And thus ends the history of the High Heeled Shoe as we know it. I wonder what the future holds for this paragon of modern fashion.

Posted in : How the Body Works
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