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10 Surprising History of High Heels: From Egyptian Kings to Modern Icons

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The world-renowned sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, once said, “I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.” High heels are considered a symbol of pride and a must-have item for women. Despite the discomfort caused by the high heels, women can’t give them up because they create beautiful leg lines. Interestingly, high heels were not invented to make short women appear taller but were developed as a body correction product to balance the upper body and make it look proportionate. Shall we learn more about the hidden stories behind high heels designed for women with long legs?

The Origin of High Heels

Before examining the history of high heels, let’s look at their origin. As anyone can easily guess, the term high heel is a compound word of high and heel, meaning women’s shoes with high heels. The word heel originates from the Old English “hela,” which means the back of the foot. Starting in the 15th century, the back part of shoes or boots began to be referred to as hela.

High Heels Started in Egypt

The earliest traces of high heels date back to ancient Egypt, around 3500 BC. In tomb murals, men, not women, were often depicted wearing high heels. High-heel depictions can also be found in the murals of tombs and temples that have been excavated.

Who Popularized High Heels?

King Louis XIV of France is a notable figure who popularized high heels. Despite his powerful reign, King Louis XIV had a complex about his short stature. So, he ordered a shoemaker to make high shoes exclusively for him. The shoemaker raised the heel higher than ordinary shoe heels and decorated the area around it with various battle scenes. Some high heels made for King Louis XIV had heels over 10 cm.

High Heels Were a Symbol of Wealth

At that time, high heels symbolized wealth, power, and masculinity. Under King Louis XIV’s rule, the higher and redder the heels, the stronger the wearer was considered. He passed a law that only nobles could wear heeled shoes, and the king only wore red heels with soles. His court members were also allowed to wear red heels.

What Were High Heels Used For?

So, what were the uses of high heels in the past? High heels were worn in medieval Europe because they helped step on stirrups when riding horses. Also, due to poor sewage systems at the time, streets were often filled with animal and human waste, and high heels became popular to avoid stepping into them.

When Did Women Start Wearing High Heels?

Once exclusively worn by men, high heels began to be worn by women around the 18th century. Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV, was particularly fond of high heels. As a result, high heels began to trend, and the heels of women’s shoes started to rise while men’s heels began to lower. Since then, women have sought high heels, a trend that continues 300 years later.

High Heels Popularized by Model Naomi Campbell

World-renowned top model Naomi Campbell once walked the runway in Vivienne Westwood’s 40 cm killer heels. However, she fell midway due to the heels’ excessive height and weight, which became a huge issue. After that, killer heels over 10 cm started to trend in the fashion industry. The Vivienne Westwood killer heels worn by Naomi Campbell are now exhibited in a museum as historical artifacts.

Christian Louboutin

Even if you don’t know the name Christian Louboutin, his high heels are famous enough for anyone to recognize. Designer Christian Louboutin, feeling something was missing from his shoes right before his first shoe fashion show, painted the soles with red nail polish. Since then, the red sole has become his signature. Despite their 12 cm height, his shoes are renowned for their comfort and are loved by many women.

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik is synonymous with luxury shoes. Originating from Spain, designer Manolo Blahnik specializes in women’s shoes. His products are known for their dizzying heights and ornate decorations. Despite the high heels, they have a large fan base and monopolize the love of top-tier Hollywood actresses with their unique, sophisticated atmosphere.

Jimmy Choo

“You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choos.” a famous line from the movie The Devil Wears Prada. Jimmy Choo, known as the Shoes of Desire, became famous as Princess Diana of the UK, and Carrie, the main character of Sex and the City, frequently wore them in the 1990s. With its simple lines and glamorous design, Jimmy Choo shoes maximize the feminine mood.

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