High heel shoes are footwear with a heel higher than the toes. High-heeled shoes have acted as a differentiating symbol between social classes or sexes. High heels displayed status and wealth before spreading to the lower class. Men initially wore heels before they became a fashion object among women. This paper will explore the history of the high heel shoes until the modern times.
History of High Heel Shoes
The high heel footwear originated in Egypt. The upper class mostly wore the high heels to signify their status while others wore them during special ceremonies. According to the ancient history, high heels were men’s footwear. This footwear assisted riders in their riding while soldiers wore high heels to secure their stance in order to shoot more efficiently. In the 15th century, Catherine de Medici, a fiance of Henry II, instructed her cobbler to make her a two-inch high heel shoes since she was less than five foot tall. This made her appear taller and prettier. In addition, it gave her a charming sway while walking; hence, it was the birth of high heels in weddings (Andrew,2012).
The European upper classes of the 16th century adopted the shoes as a symbol of status. The reason behind it was that people who did not work could go around comfortably with the shoes. The shoes of the upper class in Franch society had red heels and soles. As years progressed, women started getting attracted to men’s fashion and started wearing hats, smoking pipes, cutting their hair, and donning high heel shoes in an effort to masculinize their fashion. During this period, the upper class shoe fashion was unisex. In the mid 17th century, men’s heels became lower, stronger, and rectangular while those of women were more curved and slender (Hifashionsl, 2010).
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By the end of the 17th century, men had altogether stopped wearing high heels. They gave more weight to education rather than honor making them shift to clothing that is more practical. They also abandoned the use of bright colored fabrics and adorning themselves with jewelries. With these alterations, there appeared distinct characteristics between the sexes. Women did not wear the high heels for long since the French Revolution banned it. High heels reduced to a mere wedge. By the 18th century, the heel fashion became awkward making women also abandon them (Andrew,2012).
In the late 18th century, heel fashion revived; with the invention of sewing machines, varieties of the high heels became available in the market. At the period, the high heel footwear made its comeback; some women were comfortable with a heel as high as five to six inches. According to advertisers, they changed from being harmless to beneficial to the back, minimized stooping and made walking easier. They created a sexual gait to catch men’s attention. The main types of heels used by the Western women were stacked, knock-on, and spring. Christian Dior, a French designer, and Roger Vivier who was a French shoe designer facilitated the revival of the heels.
Shoes with a single strap or lace fastened across the foot became popular in the 19th century. Most of these shoes were open around the toes and were called “gillie” shoes. A bit long Russian boots were also in fashion at that time though not widely spread. Chinese concubines, Old Rome prostitutes, and Turkish odalisques, mostly wore high heel shoes for easy identification. The Italian “chopine” was cylindrical, forty-two or more centimeters high. (Hifashionsl, 2010). The Italian style forced the women who wore them to support themselves with sticks in order to walk. The high-heeled shoes and platform shoes were widespread by the middle of the 19th century. In the 1950, there was the rise of many fashion and shoe designers who made the world fashion even more peculiar. The arrival of Hollywood models who wore the high heels to portray a seductive and alluring sway triggered the heels popularity. In the 1990s, high heels were worn for catwalks before spreading to all women.
The stiletto was a French fashion with thick wooden heel. The heel was later replaced with a thin long metal to enable women emphasize their sexuality by giving the breasts and buttocks an appealing effect. The high-heeled shoes gained popularity due to their incredible sensual appeal and the attention it gave to women. With the emergence of miniskirts, stilettos were preferred by most women to enhance the look of their bare legs (Andrew, 2012).
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Modern Day Heels
Recently, women wear different types of heels for various purposes. The stilettos, for example, are thin, long, with heights ranging from two to nine inches. Women wear this shoe when they want their legs to look more toned. Short or medium height women also wear them in order to appear taller. Kitten heels range from half one and half inches to two inches; most of them are sandals. They give the allure of high heels but do not add extra height. The tall women mostly wear this kind of heels (Andrew, 2012)
Cone heel shoes have round heels, which are broader at the sole and becomes narrower towards the tip. The heel lengths of this type of shoe are varied. Prism-heel shoes have three sides forming a triangular heel. They can be found in the market though rarely worn. Spool-heel shoes appear broad at the sole, narrow at the middle, and thicken towards the ground. Wedge heels run from the front to the back. The heel is narrower at the toes and thicker towards the heel. They are preferred during summer and are available in various bright colors (Andrew, 2012).
Pump heels are classical heels that are usually worn in offices since they have a professional look. Their heel lengths vary, and a buyer can easily choose one that pleases her.
Sling back are shoes with over one and half inches usually pointed or rounded at the toes. Their back part is partially covered, and there is a strap crossing over the heel. The shoe is mostly worn in India (Kremer, 2013).
Due to the increased demand for women heeled shoes, the shoe industry and especially those dealing with the manufacture of women shoes have continued to grow. According to the 2004 statistics, 98% of the United States imports were shoes, and this trend has continued to date. Chinese manufacturing has been the dominant source of the United States women footwear imports. Their variations in color and design have assisted in the expansion of the market worldwide.
High heel shoes fashion has had its challenges. However, the emergence of new designs has maintained its market stable. By wearing high heels, women are able to make short frequent steps that increase the rotation of their hips hence attracting attention. They make women look more attractive, thinner, and increase their height. High heels make women more assertive and confident in turn. Heels also serve as an illusion of longer slender legs. From the various types of heels available in the market, women are able to choose a heel that will match their outfits.
In addition, the footwear manufacturing industries have recorded high profits from the sale of shoes. This has been a result of the increased demand of the high heel among women since it is more fashionable to wear the heel. Also, many advertisements have been placed by the manufacturers with an aim of catching the buyer’s attention.
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