What are seen as a symbol of the female population, high heels, have a very interesting backstory.
Contrary to what the majority of people know and believe, heels were originally invented for men (like so many other things). According to Roman Mars in his article “A Short History on the High Heel,” from class status to butcher shops to war, the heel played a few different roles in the lives of European men.
Wealthy men wore heels to flaunt their money to those less fortunate. Butcherers wore heels to avoid getting blood all over their shoes and pants. Soldiers wore heels on horseback so they could stand up and balance in their stirrups in order to use their guns.
High heels didn’t become something really designed for women until about the 18th century when men regarded them as impractical. After that they became highly marketed to women.
It was first in pornography that thin high heels, such as stilettos, were embraced. Later they became a big deal in fashion, like in magazines and seen on celebrities, and the epitome of femininity.
What does this tell us about our society and values?
Though it’s not very clear who invented the first high heel, the shoe has evolved through centuries and is now mainly worn by women. The big gender shift is interesting because it makes you wonder what the standards for clothing and accessories are, and who is “supposed” to wear them.
After talking with a few ladies about their heels, I have found a common theme. It seems that many women own at least five pairs. Also, to them high heels are empowering. They bring sophistication, confidence and elegance. None of the women said they wear heels to impress a man, as is a stereotypical assumption.
High heels can be a form of artistic expression. Megan Griffee a sophomore at Bethel College said, “I wear heels because they make me feel good about myself. They make my legs thinner and add some flair to my outfits.”