The foot and shoe have since Egyptian times (3500 BC) been recognised as powerful symbols of fertility and life. During Egyptian times, the lower classes used to walk around barefoot but the higher classes wore leather sandals that were oft times laced together in an imitation of the Ankh symbol which is the symbol for life.
High heels are thought to have come into existence for butchers who needed to be raised above the blood on the floor, and high heels are known to have existed in ancient Greece and Rome in the form of high cork or wood soles which were worn by actors to indicate their social status and the status of their character whilst on stage. Female prostitutes of the era were readily recognised by their high heels.
In the 1400s platform shoes called ‘chopines’ were popular throughout Europe. Venetian courtesans made them a fashion statement wearing them anywhere from 7 inches to 30 inches high! This of course makes walking sound ridiculously difficult, and they would need canes or even servants to help them mobilise. These shoes were obviously fraught with contradiction, hinting at sexuality, power and sophistication, yet inhibiting movement and making the wearer look as if she was constantly in danger of toppling over. Indeed it has been speculated that high heels were invented by men to prevent their women from running away from them!
High heels were ‘formally’ invented for Catherine de Medici, who was the fiancee of the Duke of Orleans who later became the King of France. She was petite in stature (just under 5 foot) and was insecure in her looks due to competition from the Dukes mistress, who was significantly taller than she. She therefore took to wearing 2 inch heels to give her height and an attractive sway. Heels quickly took off and were soon worn by wealthy, coining the term ‘well-heeled’ to mean someone who is privileged.
In 1791 Napoleon banished high heels as a mark of equality yet Marie Antoinette ignored the rules by deciding to be executed wearing 2 inch heels! They became popular again in the 1860s when Victorians began associating the instep arch of a high heel shoe with the curves of a woman, and aristocracy, whereas feet with no instep, such as the feet of African Americans was thought to be the ‘lowest type of foot.’
Today we don’t hold these kind of racist beliefs, but we do love the high heel just as much, if not more.
Sex and the City seems to have liberated us to an extent, in that we can admit how much we really do love high heels. And there are reasons for this – yes, it has been analysed to death. Freud took the shoe to be a symbol of the vagina, with the heeled shoe effectively becoming a vagina with penis – empowerment indeed! The high heel also tilts the angle of the buttocks, making the body look more youthful, and therefore more fertile – and the height given alters the foot, leg, thigh, pelvis and breasts. It has been concluded that they are the most potent aphrodisiac ever invented!
For the full selection of high heels available in our store just click here!