ESC, History of High Heels

Whether you're a statement-making spiked stiletto kinda gal or more of an of-the-moment trendsetter type, have you ever wondered where your beloved high heel got its start? Bet you did you know that the OG heel was actually created for gentlemen royalty. Or what about the fact that pumps were merely a measure of a man's social standing? Oh, how times have changed!

From the first men's platforms to today's red carpet stilettos, this once gender-neutral footwear has experienced quite the sartorial renaissance over the years.

ESC, History of High Heels

DeAgostini, Hyacinthe Rigaud/DeAgostini, Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images,

Iggy Azalea and Rihanna may be avid fans of the flatform, but the aggressively stacked shoe was originally embraced by the reigning Medici family and the Italian upper class and worn as a symbol of wealth and power. The New York Post enlightened us to the fact that the envelope-pushing style was intended for men, but it didn't take long for the daring look to also be adopted by prostitutes of the time. 

We often look to ladylike style icons like Kate MiddletonMichelle Obama and Olivia Palermo  for demure footwear finds, but the classic heeled pump actually originated at the storied French Palace of Versailles during the opulent rule of King Louis XIV. According to Forbes, the characteristically short and stout ruler was known for wearing his signature red painted "Louis Heel," which signified nobility and added a boost to his stunted frame.

ESC, History of High Heels

John Minihan/Evening Standard/Getty Images, David Redfern/Redferns, Evening Standard, Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho

Modern day pinup beauties like Dita Von Teese and Christina Aguilera are advocates for pin curls and polished pumps, but it was famous sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot that initially set the example for 1950s housewives in the days of early Hollywood.

Kate MossTaylor Swift and Gigi Hadid are all fans of the sky-high wedge, but it was at the height of the peace, love and rock ‘n' roll era that the platform shoe made its mark. Adored by the disco-loving musician set, these once again non-gender specific shoes were seen on the likes of Elton JohnJohn Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and other ‘70s main players.

ESC, History of High Heels

Mark Mainz/Getty Images, Brian Ach/WireImage

The ‘90s was the age of the supermodel, and with a lens on fashion, designers began borrowing from the past and taking more liberties in their designs. For instance, platforms made headlines once again when model Naomi Campbell took a tumble in her groovy pair during a Vivienne Westwood show in 1993.

The true stiletto rebirth was in part due to a one Miss Sarah Jessica Parker circa 1998 with the premiere of a little known TV show called Sex and the City. Almost overnight, the idea of outrageous $600-plus pumps and strappy sandals hit the mainstream, and bold designs from Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo became the norm.

Today, the classic high heel has evolved into the ultimate symbol of femininity and has solidified its stature as not only an everyday street-style staple, but also as an essential accessory among Hollywood royalty. Ever-evolving styles can be seen gracing the feet of red carpet regulars like Sofia Vergara, Emma Watson and Rachel McAdams, to name just a few.

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.