The higher the better: How heels appeared

Everyone knows that woman in high heels is the embodiment of a particular version of femininity – dainty, sexualised. But uncomfortable and with limited mobility.

High heels were originally designed for men – and had an immensely practical purpose. Soldiers on horseback wore them in tenth-century Persia. Over time, heels appeared on the shoes of male aristocrats across Europe. Yet from the mid-17th century, heels became associated with supposedly “feminine” qualities. For example, frivolity, and so became women’s wear.

After the second world war, techniques and materials used in aircraft engineering were applied to shoes, creating the stiletto. The heel requires a thin metal shank, strong enough to bear the wearer’s weight yet flexible to allow the shoe to move.

It is interesting that designers are still searching for the perfect formula for comfortable heels, while more and more women are switching to the side of sneakers and boots. Comfort wins.

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