Since as far back as we can remember high heels have been a major symbol of femininity – however this type of shoe was for a long time a very important component of the male wardrobe – a fact that may come as a surprise to men today.
High heels are known for their racy, sensual aura, an accessory not associates with utility. Furthermore, it is incredibly difficult to walk on soft surfaces wearing them and walking on your toes and squashing them at the same time is not the most comfortable way to walk – shoes are made (not) for walking?
Initially it is believed that high heels were developed for the Persian horsemen roughly around the 9th century. The lengthened heel was allegedly developed specifically for this purpose. It enabled the riders to to keep their feet in the stirrups with greater ease and allowing the rider greater stability whilst firing arrows standing up.
Nearing the 17th century Persia had the largest cavalry regiment on the planet and wanted to form trade relationships in Europe in hopes of becoming strong enough to defeat their most powerful enemy – the Ottoman empire. An empire at the height of its might under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent controlling parts of Africa, Europe and Asia.
So Persia saw it in their interest to send diplomats all over Europe in hopes of finding deals. Upon seeing this unique type of shoe, men quickly became obsessed with the style and heels became a symbol of manliness. The trend went so far that it was possible to tell who was close to the king just by looking at their shoes. Only the most privileged were allowed to wear matching red heels.
As women started to adopt heels and more shoes were made, the price started to drop. The higher social classes had to do something to stand out from the crowd – this lead to higher and higher heels, a sign of being wealthy.
In an effort to differentiate themselves from women, men stopped wearing heels and for practically purposes women stopped too. For a period of a few hundred years, high heeled shoes went virtually extinct.
More recently ~1850s this type of shoe came back into fashion and is now a icon. Today’s designers also have the advantage of new plastics and materials to support the bridge of the shoe enabling more flashy stand-out models. Since their reintroduction they seem to flip flop in and out of fashion. Right now, heels are now common among some women, cowboys and porn stars.