A Brief History of Heels in Time

15 May

Heeling Good About Yourself

Heels: Before and After Christ*

Approx. 4000 B.C.
Earliest depictions of shoes (flexible leather pieces held in place with lacings) in ancient Egyptian murals on tombs and temples.

Approx. 200 B.C.
Platform sandals called kothorni, with high wood or cork soles, become popular among Roman tragic actors.

Approx. 1000 A.D.
At Saxon weddings, father of the bride customarily presents the groom with one of the bride’s shoes, symbolizing transfer of his authority over her. The bride’s shoe is thrown to the bridesmaids; the one who catches it will be next to marry.

1154-1189
King Henry II of England popularizes shoes with narrow, pointed toes. Legend says they hid his deformed toes.

1189-1199
Knights of Richard the Lionhearted begin to wear sollerets, downward-curving pointed toes, to keep their feet from slipping out of stirrups.

1215
A law passed in Paris bans university professors from wearing shoes with long, pointed toes. However, shoe toes, a symbol of rank, grow longer and pointier during the next two centuries, culminating by about 1382 in the spiky-toed cracowe. Kings and princes sometimes wore toes 30 inches long.

1386
Knights fighting in the Battle of Sempach in Switzerland are forced to amputate their shoes’ long toes after dismounting before they can advance on foot.

Approx. 1500
Shoes begin to be made in two pieces, with a flexible upper attached to a heavier, stiffer sole. This leads to the introduction of the heel, devised as a better way of keeping a rider’s foot in the stirrup. Heeled boots for men quickly become fashionable.
1509-1547
Henry VIII of England favors wide-toed shoes, sometimes 12 inches across, which had to be stuffed to keep them on his feet.

1533
Short-statured Italian bride Catherine d’Medici, married at 14 to the Duke of Orleans, wears shoes with two-inch heels to exaggerate her height. The high heel may have been invented by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

1553-1558
Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”), another vertically challenged monarch, wears heels as high as possible. From this period until the early 19th century, high heels are frequently in vogue for both sexes.

Mid-1500s
An extreme shoe style called chopines, popular among women in Italy, Spain and France, had pedestals of cork or wood as tall as 24 inches. A Venetian lady wearing chopines needed two servants to help her in and out of a gondola.

1628
Pilgrims arrive in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A law is passed prohibiting “excess in bootes.”

1660
French shoemaker Nicholas Lestage, so clever at his trade that some accuse him of sorcery, becomes shoemaker to Louis XIV. The heels of Louis’s shoes, some decorated with miniature battle scenes, are as tall as five inches. High “Louis” heels are also fashionable for ladies.

1745
Madame de Pompadour, tiny-footed favorite of Louis XV, popularizes high, narrow “Pompadour” heels. Ladies tape their feet to reduce their apparent size and faint at court.

1793
Marie Antoinette ascends the scaffold to be executed wearing two-inch heels. However, in the wake of the French Revolution heels become lower than at any time in the 18th century.

1794
Quincy Reed opens America’s first retail shoe store in Boston. Around this period, Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) invents machines for cutting soles and riveting them to uppers.

Early 1800sB
Flat shoes and Grecian-style sandals become popular.

Approx. 1865
The “sneaker” or plimsoll, a canvas-topped, rubber-soled shoe, is invented for badminton and tennis. Ladies’ heel heights vary but stay below two inches during the rest of the century.

1904
The ladies’ “pump” or court shoe, a British invention, reaches America. Shoe stores begin to stock shoes with a range of widths around now.

Approx. 1955
Tall “stiletto” heels for women’s shoes, invented in Italy, become a fashion rage. Very pointed toes come into vogue for both sexes.

1970s
Return of the platform shoe.

1980s
Athletic shoes diversify and gain popularity. Some women begin wearing them to work or for commuting.

2100(Projected)
Women adopt holographic projections of heels, miss authenticity of painful blisters and wounds. HoloHeels create hipster revival of classic heels.
*Source: http://users.powernet.co.uk/wingett/History1.htm

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