Men wore heels before women ever did, then stopped… why?

For generations they have signified femininity and glamour – but a pair of high heels was once an essential accessory for men. Roshe Run Donna Grigie

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Beautiful, provocative, sexy – high heels may be all these things and more, but even their most ardent fans wouldn’t claim they were practical. Kole Calhoun Jersey Nike Air Jordan 5 Womens
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They get stuck in things. Air Jordan 12 Kanken Big Texas Longhorns Women in heels are advised to stay off the grass – and also ice, cobbled streets and posh floors. Matthew Slater Nick Chubb UGA Jersey asics gel pulse 7 męskie ZX 700

And high heels don’t tend to be very comfortable. Asics Gel Lyte 5 adidas hamburg damskie It is almost as though they just weren’t designed for walking in. FLYKNIT LUNAR3 sac fjallraven kanken Originally, they weren’t. Air VAPORMAX

Under Armour Curry 3.0 Continue reading the main story Find out more The Why Factor is broadcast on BBC World Service on Fridays at 19:30 GMT Listen to the heels programe via iPlayer Download The Why Factor podcast More from BBC World Service “The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the near east as a form of riding footwear,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. Maglia Dwyane Wade New Balance Niño Maglia Patrick Ewing Cheap Nike Shoes Outlet UK Good horsemanship was essential to the fighting styles of Persia – the historical name for modern-day Iran. Nike Sko Norge Nettbutikk “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,” says Semmelhack. At the end of the 16th Century, Persia’s Shah Abbas I had the largest cavalry in the world. Case Keenum – Houston Cougars Oklahoma State Cowboys nike air max 2017 pas cher Nike Air Max 2017 Heren He was keen to forge links with rulers in Western Europe to help him defeat his great enemy, the Ottoman Empire. Under Armour CurryPas Cher adidas y3 homme buy bns gold Copyright © 2013 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada A men’s 17th Century Persian shoe, covered in shagreen – horse-hide with pressed mustard seeds So in 1599, Abbas sent the first Persian diplomatic mission to Europe – it called on the courts of Russia, Germany and Spain. Yunel Escobar Jersey Womens Air Jordan 13 A wave of interest in all things Persian passed through Western Europe. new balance 1300 damskie Air Jordan 9 Homme

nike air max 2017 dames Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats, who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that, it suddenly seemed, only heeled shoes could supply. Nike Air Max 2016 Dames Louis XIV painted in 1701 by Hyacinthe Rigaud (Getty Images) Louis XIV wearing his trademark heels in a 1701 portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes – and the high heel was born. Andre Johnson Asics Gel Lyte 5 męskie In the muddy, rutted streets of 17th Century Europe, these new shoes had no utility value whatsoever – but that was the point. Nike Free Run 5.0 Blu Uomo

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“One of the best ways that status can be conveyed is through impracticality,” says Semmelhack, adding that the upper classes have always used impractical, uncomfortable and luxurious clothing to announce their privileged status. Air Jordan 5 AIR ZOOM ELITE 9 New Balance Pas Cher “They aren’t in the fields working and they don’t have to walk far.” When it comes to history’s most notable shoe collectors, the Imelda Marcos of his day was arguably Louis XIV of France. Nike Air Max 2015 Uomo

Todd Gurley – Georgia Bulldogs For a great king, he was rather diminutively proportioned at only 5ft 4in (1.63m). Nike Air Max 2017 Heren blauw

Florida State Seminoles nike air max Adam Wainwright Jersey He supplemented his stature by a further 4in (10cm) with heels, often elaborately decorated with depictions of battle scenes. Nike Roshe Run Dames

adidas Stan Smith Italia The heels and soles were always red – the dye was expensive and carried a martial overtone. Umbro UX homme Russell Wilson – Wisconsin Badgers FREE 5.0 Purdue Boilermakers The fashion soon spread overseas – Charles II of England’s coronation portrait of 1661 features him wearing a pair of enormous red, French style heels – although he was over 6ft (1.85m) to begin with. Asics Pas Cher In the 1670s, Louis XIV issued an edict that only members of his court were allowed to wear red heels. Nike Air Max 2017 Heren EQT SUPPORT ADV

In theory, all anyone in French society had to do to check whether someone was in favour with the king was to glance downwards. kanken baratas Cam Newton chaussure Asics Gel-Lyte III Nike Air Max 2017 Dames roze In practice, unauthorised, imitation heels were available. Goedkoop Nike Schoenen 2017 Adidas Zx 700 Homme Canotte Dallas Mavericks Air Zoom Pegasus 32 Although Europeans were first attracted to heels because the Persian connection gave them a macho air, a craze in women’s fashion for adopting elements of men’s dress meant their use soon spread to women and children. Zapatillas Nike Air Max Baratas Maglie Cleveland Cavaliers nike damskie buty czarne Canotta Boston Celtics “In the 1630s you had women cutting their hair, adding epaulettes to their outfits,” says Semmelhack. NIKE FREE RN asics lyte 3 blu uomo “They would smoke pipes, they would wear hats that were very masculine. Ray Ban new balance 373 bleu orange Scott Kazmir Authentic Jersey adidas superstar mujer Nike Air Max 2017 Grigio Uomo

Amari Cooper Alabama Football Jerseys air max pas cher pour femme And this is why women adopted the heel – it was in an effort to masculinise their outfits.” From that time, Europe’s upper classes followed a unisex shoe fashion until the end of the 17th Century, when things began to change again. Nike Air Jordan 11 Womens
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“You start seeing a change in the heel at this point,” says Helen Persson, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Womens Air Jordan 6 Nike Air Max 2016 Dame Nike Air Jordan 4 Womens
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Air Jordan 4 Retro Cincinnati Bearcats baskets Asics Pre Galaxy Maglie Memphis Grizzlies “Men started to have a squarer, more robust, lower, stacky heel, while women’s heels became more slender, more curvaceous.” Continue reading the main story Why are high heels sexy? Jane Hamilton modelling a swimsuit in heels, 1938 Association Elizabeth Semmelhack believes that high heels began to be seen as erotic footwear when they came back into fashion in the late 19th Century – the nude models on French postcards were often wearing them Biology Dr Helen Fischer, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, says that heels force women into a “natural courting pose” found amongst mammals, with an arched back and protruding buttocks Patriarchy Not only do heels transform the way women’s bodies look to please men, they cause them pain and prevent them from running away – radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys says they are one way in which women are forced to “compensate for the lack of power that men may be having” The toes of women’s shoes were often tapered so that when the tips appeared from her skirts, the wearer’s feet appeared to be small and dainty. Houston Cougars Fast forward a few more years and the intellectual movement that came to be known as the Enlightenment brought with it a new respect for the rational and useful and an emphasis on education rather than privilege. Asics Mujer Maglie Los Angeles Lakers Fjallraven Kanken Sale Houston Rockets

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Men’s fashion shifted towards more practical clothing. nike air max 2017 femme NIKE AIR ZOOM PEGASUS 33

In England, aristocrats began to wear simplified clothes that were linked to their work managing country estates. Maglia Tony Parker nike air max 2017 femme grise Russell Wilson College Jerseys new balance 1400 femme It was the beginning of what has been called the Great Male Renunciation, which would see men abandon the wearing of jewellery, bright colours and ostentatious fabrics in favour of a dark, more sober, and homogeneous look. Adidas Superstar Schoenen Dames nike pas cher adidas y3 hombre Men’s clothing no longer operated so clearly as a signifier of social class, but while these boundaries were being blurred, the differences between the sexes became more pronounced. nike air max 2017 wit new balance damskie 410 “There begins a discussion about how men, regardless of station, of birth, if educated could become citizens,” says Semmelhack. Adidas Goedkoop Air Jordan 9 buy albion gold Air Jordan 4 Kentucky Wildcats Jerseys “Women, in contrast, were seen as emotional, sentimental and uneducatable. air max 2017 rosa donna

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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.” High heels were seen as foolish and effeminate. Eli Manning nike air max 90 bianco donna By 1740 men had stopped wearing them altogether. Air Jordan 6 Uomo

Scarpe Nike Store But it was only 50 years before they disappeared from women’s feet too, falling out of favour after the French Revolution. By the time the heel came back into fashion, in the mid-19th Century, photography was transforming the way that fashions – and the female self-image – were constructed. Ray Ban pas cher Nike Air Max 1 Pas Cher Pornographers were amongst the first to embrace the new technology, taking pictures of naked women for dirty postcards, positioning models in poses that resembled classical nudes, but wearing modern-day high heels. air max 2017 bianco donna

adidas stan smith mid uomo asics gel kinsei Billige Nike Sko billig nike air max 2016 Semmelhack, author of Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe, believes that this association with pornography led to high heels being seen as an erotic adornment for women. ffxiv gil sale fjällräven kånken Laptop 17 Michael Strahan Jersey Air Jordan 1 The 1960s saw a return of low heeled cowboy boots for men and some dandies strutted their stuff in platform shoes in the 1970s. Air Jordan 4 Uomo New Balance Goedkoop NIKE AIR MAX THEA ULTRA FLYKNIT Chuck Posite ADIDAS TUBULAR SHADOW KNIT

But the era of men walking around on their toes seems to be behind us. fjällräven kånken Mini Air Jordan 5 Donna soldes air max 1 Air Max 90 Floreale

nike tn rouge Scarpe air jordan Could we ever return to an era of guys squeezing their big hairy feet into four-inch, shiny, brightly coloured high heels? “Absolutely,” says Semmelhack. Yeezy Boost 350 V2


There is no reason, she believes, why the high heel cannot continue to be ascribed new meanings – although we may have to wait for true gender equality first.

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