The Ancient Origin Story of High Heel Shoes

The Ancient Origin Story of High Heel ShoesHigh heel shoes or frequently shortened as high heels or even just heels are defined as footwear which lifts the heels of the wearer’s feet considerably than the toes. You may find these high heels in large variety of styles and different shapes, such as stiletto, pump or court shoe, block, tapered, blade, and wedge.

According to some high-fashion shoe websites like Jimmy Choo and Gucci, shoes will be considered “high heels” if they have height over than 2.5 to 5 inches (6.4 and 12.7 cm). By this height, high heel shoes tend to create aesthetic illusion of longer or more slender legs. Despite of the heel height, these shoes are widely popular, more exclusively among women.

But, don’t you know that in their ancient origins, high heel shoes are once an essential accessory for men? During those old times, these types of shoes acted practical purposes rather than aesthetic one.

Ancient Greek

Even though unclear about the initial invention of high heel shoes, these shoes were spotted being worn by ancient Greek actor around 200 BC. It was “kothorni”, raised footwear made from wooden cork soles in 8 and 10 cm height.

Middle Ages

These high heel shoes were found in Europe which both men and women worn them. The reason was that the streets in many Medieval European cities are muddy and filthy, thus “pattens” – elevated over shoes above the ground – were chosen rather than the fragile and expensive footwear.

9th Century and 16th Century

From the finding of Persian ceramic bowl, there is an image of Persian horseback warriors were recorded wearing an extended heel for keeping feet from sliding out of stirrups. Also, these heels will be very useful for the riders to keep their balance during standing up and shooting arrows.

Meanwhile, at the end of the 16th century, the Persian Shah, Abbas I, sent diplomats to Europe to seek alliances to fight against a common enemy, the Ottoman Turks. European aristocrats saw the Persian high heels and immediately adopted it as symbol of masculinity, apart from its practical use for horseback riding, and as a status symbol.

15th to 17th Centuries

Chopine was made as a type of European footwear functioned as practical and symbolic roles. These high heels shoes were popular more especially among the upper class women of Venetian society. The higher the chopines, the higher the status of the wearer.


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