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It is said that the image emitted from the high heel shoe is contradictory; on the one hand it gives the appearance of grace, elegance and ease of movement but on the other, it can encumber a woman’s movement and can make her unsteady on her feet. Through the ages, the high heel has been linked to sex and sexuality, especially amongst the nobility and wealthier people of the world.

The High Heel in Egypt – In Egypt there is a mural that is dated to around 3,500 BC and depicts men and women wearing shoes that are much the same as the modern high heel. The people are probably nobility as the lower classes tended to walk around barefoot. The usual footwear of the aristocracy however was a flat leather shoe so the high heels are believed to have been worn mainly for ceremonial events; except that is if you were a butcher who would wear them to keep his feet out of the blood in his slaughter house.

Heels in the Classic World – Greek and Roman actors used to wear Kothorni, shoes with high wooden or cork soles that would get higher or lower depending on the social status of the character they played. In Rome, it was not only actors that wore high heels, they were also used as a signal to people that a lady was willing to sell her body.

The Chopine – The ridiculously oversized Chopine of Renaissance Europe was a fashion accessory and ordained with gold lace, embroidery and decorative leather for the beautification of women of high society in Europe.

Catherine de Medici – Catherine de Medici is credited with starting the fashion craze of high heels in France in the 1500s that would lead to laws being introduced limiting who could wear them. By the 18th century, the red high heel was to be worn by the aristocracy only and nobody could wear them higher than King Louis XIV’s five inch heels.

Witches and the High Heel – In the new Puritan colony known as Massachusetts, it was illegal for a woman to use high heels to seduce a man. So high was the fear of the sexuality of the high heel in the fledgling community, they thought it must be witchcraft and any woman found using her high heel shoes as a tool of seduction would be tried accordingly.

Victorian Lust – It seems that in Victorian times some people developed an appreciation of the instep arch, seeing it as symbolic of a curvy woman. The heel had the effect of making feet seem smaller and daintier which was considered very sexual during the period. However the sexual connotations of the shoe did not go unnoticed by religious houses, many of whom wanted the high heel banned.

Hollywood and the Heel – In the 20th century, Hollywood and its female stars fell in love with the heel, giving it an air of sexuality that is still with us today. Stars like Marilyn Monroe made every woman want to wear them and now, they can be found in almost every woman’s wardrobe in the Western world. They are a fashion accessory that makes a lady feel desired, sexy and in control regardless of her social background and look set to continue to grow in popularity well into the 21st century.

Source: High Heel Shoes as a Symbol of Class, Gender and Sexuality
Image source: Zu Callisto

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