In a time when stilettos and platforms are often associated with female style and female sexuality, that fact might come as a surprise — but it shouldn't. In fact, for decades high heels found their place on the feet of male soldiers, aristocrats and even royals in differing parts of the globe for very specific reasons. And when it comes to the surprising history of heeled shoes, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The origin of high-heels can be traced back to 15th century Persia when soldiers wore them to help secure their feet in stirrups. Persian migrants brought the shoe trend to Europe, where male aristocrats wore them to appear taller and more formidable.
The pedestal-like chopine of the late 15th to the early 17th centuries transformed the upper-class European woman into a towering figure. Especially popular in Venice, the shoes were so exceptionally high — sometimes up to 54 cm — that maids were used as crutches. Chopines were completely hidden under skirts. The higher the footwear, the more cloth was required for the dress, another indication of status.
In 1673, King Louis XIV introduced shoes with red heels and red soles to the French court. He restricted the wearing of such shoes to his circle of nobles. The practice was later taken up by royalty across Europe and became highly fashionable. The color coding — identifying superiority and privilege — was quickly copied by aspirants.