A recent episode of the BBC’s “The Why Factor” explored the history of high heels. Of interest is the background of men wearing high heels, which they originally wore as a form of riding footwear.
“Good horsemanship was essential to the fighting styles of Persia – the historical name for modern-day Iran …When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively,” said Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
I’m so enjoying the visual of a man on horse in stilettos. From there, interest in Persian fashion spread to Western Europe where the high heel became a way for men to flaunt their status. The more impractical the footwear, the more privilege it displayed. The higher a man’s heel, the less distance he had to walk. After the jump, find out what put an end to men hobbling around in heels.
Blame in all on the Enlightenment and its emphasis on the rational and logical. Semmelhack explains:
“There begins a discussion about how men, regardless of station, of birth, if educated could become citizens … Women, in contrast, were seen as emotional, sentimental and uneducatable. Female desirability begins to be constructed in terms of irrational fashion and the high heel – once separated from its original function of horseback riding – becomes a primary example of impractical dress.”
So, there you have it. By 1740, high heels were seen as too foolish and effeminate for men to wear. Well, isn’t that a charming, sexist factoid? It almost makes me want to avoid ever wearing high heels again. But I won’t because I embrace my impractical nature. I think they need to re-name the Enlightenment so that it accurately represents how unenlightened and illogical some of its ideas were. Does this mean that if we get Re-Enlightened, men will start wearing heels again? I hope so. I would enjoy that. [BBC]