Shoes loved by women – a brief history of stilettos

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There are many reasons why women today wear stilettos. Thanks to them they emphasize their outfit and shapely figure or add a few centimeters of height to themselves. Interestingly, these shoes once served a completely different purpose

In the 15th century, Persian soldiers wore them while riding horses to make their feet fit better into the stirrups. This trend was picked up by Europeans in the 17th century. Aristocrats wore them to look taller and more menacing.

Stilettos in the 16th century

Initially, pins were worn primarily by horsemen. When a soldier stood in the stirrups, the high heel helped stabilize his position. This allowed him to shoot his bow more effectively. Heels were brought to Western Europe by the Persian Shah Abbas, who had the largest cavalry in the world at the time. The aristocracy saw his shoes as a symbol of power and masculinity, so they quickly designed similar shoes for themselves. The height of the heel emphasized one’s position in society

Around the same time, women also began to wear heeled shoes, not for fashion but for practical purposes. Made of cork or metal, the heels were meant to protect them from mud and dirt. They enjoyed great popularity in Venice and Spain. Also for women, the height of the heel directly corresponded to their place in society.

The French court

In 1673, King Louis XIV introduced shoes with red heels and red soles to the French court, which only his courtiers could wear. The heels were an important status symbol at Versailles and only the nobility owned them. Later, this custom was adopted by members of royal families throughout Europe

Chinese foot binding, a practice that largely died out by the early 20th century, resulted in a gait similar to that adopted when wearing stilettos. Despite painful deformities, the body adapted over time to the constraints of small, narrow feet

When did women start wearing stilettos?

The first recorded instance of a woman wearing high-heeled shoes involved Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. She was about 150 cm tall and reportedly wanted to look taller at her wedding. By this time in 16th century Europe, ladies were wearing platform shoes as high as 60 cm

Platforms appeared earlier than shoes with heels. Unfortunately, many ladies fell over on them. They also led to many miscarriages, so they were banned. Shoemakers cut out the front of the platform and created a high heel that was safer and more durable

Turn of the 20th century

Women’s heels made a comeback in the Victorian era, largely due to new technology. The construction of the sewing machine made it possible to carefully attach the upper to the sole of shoes. The gently curved instep emphasized femininity and sophistication. It was then, for the first time in history, that heels were reserved for ladies

Photography played an important role in the style of European women. The first creators of “French postcards,” which depicted a naked woman in stilettos, concluded that high heels were sexy


Over time, the trend made its way to Hollywood. Big stars, including Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, wore stilettos in movies and glamour photos. As a result, ordinary women also tried to emulate their style. Demand for stilettos increased and they found their way into local luxury stores. Roger Vivier, a shoe designer for Christian Dior, created the tallest and thinnest stilettos in the early 1950s – he called them daggers. He used sturdy plastics to give the shoes durability. The luxurious materials, on the other hand, emphasized the offbeat style

Photo: Alexandra Maria/Pexels

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