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In my ordinary, day-to-day life I tend to venture out into the world wearing sensible, comfortable, “up for an adventure” footwear. Jodhpur boots and tennis shoes are my go-to look. However, into each life some special occasions must fall. When the call for “Sunday best” goes out, I will step up and into some heels to mark the moment.

One such “high glam” moment came along recently, and it not only got me into my heels but also got me to thinking: Ladies? I vote we give the high heels back to the fellas. What do you think?

It’s possible that some of you might not be aware that high heels began as men’s attire, but they did. In fact, they started out as a part of warrior dress. Mounted warrior, to be specific.

The earliest recorded use of a high heel comes to us from ancient Persia, what is now known as Iran, in the 10th century of the Common Era, well over 1,000 years ago. Warriors developed the world’s first high heel shoe, or boot, really, to keep their feet more secure in stirrups while riding, and, of course, to make them taller when standing on land. It is the same principle at work today in any modern cowboy or riding boot that has a stacked heel. The Persian heel was decidedly slimmer though, more like a modern kitten heel I suppose.

As with all great innovations, eventually others noticed.

The heel became a sensation in the courts of Europe after Persia sent a diplomatic envoy there in 1599. They were a hit. European high society quickly copied the look, and as usually happens when one culture borrows from another, things changed a little in the process.


What once was a practical boot meant to steady a warrior in battle, they became a more shapely, elegant thing, very much like a modern high heeled shoe. In true fad style, heels quickly became the “must have” status symbol of the well-to-do. So much so, that King Louis XIV of France mandated not only heels, but bright red heels, for members of his court – and made it illegal for anyone else to wear them.

Charles II of England wore bejeweled heels, Spanish nobles wore those fancy, thigh-high heeled boots. Even overt here in the colonies the founding fathers were forging our nation in heels and hose.

So far, my favorite pair of men’s heels belonged to Ludovick Stuart, second Duke of Lennox and Duke of Richmond, who had his portrait painted in 1620 wearing what the Royal Collection Trust describes as “shoes of patterned white silk or leather, decorated with ornate shoe roses.” They are divine. Seriously, worth a Google search.

The leap from “men only” to “women’s wear” was our own darned fault. It was a group of wild rebel women who in a dashing move started copying men’s fashions. Dresses took on new cuts, walking sticks and pipes became common accessories, and we added heels. It was all very “Annie Hall” in vibe, and actually, looked pretty cool. Fairly quickly after that, men gave up high heels and women kept wearing them.

I admit, despite the negative impact on spines, they do tend to create a polished look, and in truth, I guess I don’t totally want to give them up and give them back to the guys. After all, I have this one pair of retro 1940s heels that are just fantastic. I am quite serious, however, about at least sharing them with men.

When you think about it, fashion has always been pretty fluid. From togas to kilts to ceremonial gowns, high heels are just one more case of a look moving along with the times and the mood of the people who wear it. It seems silly to try and box that in.

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