Yes, Men Wore Heels and Tights

Baroque shoe with Louis heel
Baroque shoe with Louis heel
Colonial shoe
Colonial shoe
Victorian ankle boot
Victorian ankle boot

Continuing on our trek through the history of shoes...

I know I've thought of the pain of breaking in a new pair of heels and that it's not fair that men get to clomp around in flat, wide, comfortable shoes. They have no idea, I've thought. But, it turns out they do. Well, their ancestors, anyway. Not only did men wear heels, but they also had to wear the exact same shape for the left and right foot. So I guess I shouldn't complain anymore...

On came the Baroque era, and the reign of Louis XIV, the sun king. He decided that the men of his court should wear heels. This was mostly because he was short and wanted to add a bit of height to show his power. But you must do as the king says, so all the noblemen added heels to their wardrobes. Shoemakers had fun with this style, creating shoes of many different shapes with many elaborate designs, including tiny little paintings on the heels of the shoes. Louis XV came along after the sun king, and he invented the Louis heel, which is still used in today's style. It's tapered in the middle and then spread out on the bottom giving it a bit more stability. I even own a couple of pairs of shoes with this heel type. Eventually women also got to wear heels, and thigh-high boots became popular for men. The French Revolution, though, didn't think of shoes as a priority. The peasants overtaking the nobility didn't care about fashion, so most people began to wear plain shoes and the silver ornamental buckles from the shoes of the nobility were melted down for money for the cause.

And now we cross the Atlantic into the New World. America! We all know that by now (the late 1700's/ early 1800's) many people had made the trek across the blue and landed on our welcoming shores. But what shoes were the early colonists wearing? Very boring ones, actually. Just your basic leather shoe with a slight heel and a buckle. But close to 1830, a shoemaker in Philadelphia developed the first pair of shoes that differentiated between right and left. From the beginning of time, the shoe on each foot was exactly the same, not allowing for the opposite shape of each foot. Now, it was extremely simple to set the shoe-making machine to make a shoe for the opposite foot. This fad caught on like a house on fire, and from then on we had left and right shoes.

Queen Victoria of England and the Victorian Era brought on some interesting cultural behavior. Extreme politeness. Sounds like a reality show. Anyway, legs were taboo. No peeking! It was considered erotic to even catch a glimpse of a woman's foot, much less her ankle and the rest of her leg. Even table legs were hidden. Ankle boots became popular so that the entire foot was covered, just in case a toe peeped out from under a skirt. People began to travel more during this period, and a lot of Eastern styles had influence over the Western shoes. Trade spread, and the Western world received many shipments of silks and pearls and other items from other countries around the world. Yes, these items were used to decorate shoes, even though the shoes were hidden. It was still nice to know they were pretty.

Well, we're getting to the end pretty soon. This leaves us at the very beginning of the 20th century, when basketball and sneakers had their beginning, but we'll get into more of that later. Ah, shoes. It's always good to know the history behind one of your favorite things...

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