For generations, they have signified femininity and glamour – but a pair of high heels was once an essential accessory for men.
Although high heeled shoes are depicted in ancient Egyptian murals on tombs and temples, the earliest recorded instance of men or women wearing an elevated shoe comes from ancient Persian riders.
It has been commonly stated that the first instance of the wear of high heels involved the 1533 marriage between Catherine de’ Medici with the Duke of Orleans. She wore heels made in Florence for her wedding, and as a result, Italian high heels became the norm for ladies of the Duke’s court in France. Unfortunately, this reference may be apocryphal, as the development of heels did not begin to come about until the late 1580s, based on iconographic evidence and extant pieces.
Mary Tudor another short monarch, wore heels as high as possible. From this period until the early 19th century, high heels were frequently in vogue for both sexes.
Around 1660, a shoemaker named Nicholas Lestage designed high heeled shoes for Louis XIV. Some were more than four inches (ten cm), and most were decorated in various battle scenes. The resulting high “Louis heels” subsequently became fashionable for ladies. Today the term is used to refer to heels with a concave curve and outward taper at the bottom similar to those worn by Madame de’ Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress. (They are also sometimes called “Pompadour heels”.)
Since the French Revolution (1789-1799) the trend wearing high heels was ended to avoid any associating with the old aristocracy and its opulence. Since people wished to avoid the appearance of wealth, heels were largely eliminated from the common market for both men and women and replace by casual fashion and shoe wear. From the beginning of the Baroque the heel came back to shoes.