The Origin of High Heels

Published: 11th April 2011
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It is hard to think of high heel shoes as anything other than a stylish female shoe that adds glamour and class to any outfit. However, in the past the high heel has proven a lot more versatile, worn by both men and women during its first incarnation.

The high heeled shoe dates back to 3500 B.C to ancient Egypt. Although as far removed as possible from the styles of the 21st Century, the pieces of leather held together by lace were worn by both male and females in the upper classes of Egypt. Strangely, heels were also worn as a type of work boot by butchers during this period, with the elevated heel allowing them to avoid walking in the blood pools of their slaughtered animals. So, if we can long anything from the ancient Egyptians - the high heel can be functional as well as stylish.

From the 15th Century onwards, a number of types of high heels started to surface across many of Europeís more stylish countries. In fact, in Turkey, Chopines became very popular at this point and would remain so throughout the continent until the 17th Centrury. Although probably not technically high heels, Chopines do use elevated soles to raise a wearerís height by some inches.

At this point in history, shoes were gradually becoming more regularly made in parts rather than as one complete unit. As such, more technical and stylish pieces were becoming prominent and were being, once again, worn by men and women. Popular in France and Italy with both the fashion-conscious and the upper classes, high heels became a symbol of wealth.

When heels returned to prominence again during the late 19th Century they were worn predominantly by women, a trend which would continue until the present day. Although high heels have experience fluctuating popularity all over the world, they continue to be one of the most popular shoe types in whichever form they appear.

From their unfortunate association with the white stiletto of the Essex girl, to their rebirth thanks largely to shows like Sex and the City, the high heel will always come back into fashion. Whether itís a spike heel, kitten heel or wedge, the high heel is flexible enough to adapt to changing fashions and tastes and will continue to evolve as womenís tastes do the same.

Sophie Wilson is a fashion guru who is currently researching this season's high heel shoes

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