History of high heels: Did you know high heels were originally made for men?

High heels, often seen as seen as a symbol of femininity and fashion, actually began as a men's accessory.

High heels for men

Their evolution from a practical men's shoe to a staple in women's fashion is a fascinating journey through history, reflecting societal changes and the shifting dynamics of gender roles.

The story of high heels dates back to the 10th century, originating in the Persian cavalry. Persian warriors wore heels primarily for functionality; the heels helped stabilize their stance by securing their feet in the stirrups, allowing them to shoot arrows more effectively while riding.

This practical use ensured that the horseman could stand up on their stirrups during battles and use their bows with precision. As Persian influence spread, the trend of wearing high heels caught on across different cultures.


High heels were introduced to Europe in the 17th century through diplomatic relations and trade with Persia. European aristocrats quickly adopted this style as a symbol of status and masculinity.

The heels were not only a practical part of riding attire but also became associated with the aristocracy and a higher social standing.

The trend was largely popularized by King Louis XIV of France, who was known for his elaborate footwear. Standing at only 5 feet 4 inches, Louis XIV often wore heels as high as five inches to enhance his stature and authority.


During this period, high heels were an indicator of a person’s social rank and were often ornate, decorated with intricate designs, and made from expensive materials.

Only those who did not need to work could afford such impractical footwear, making heels a symbol of wealth and privilege. The higher the heels, the closer one was perceived to be to the social elite, and this was as true for men as it was for women.


By the 18th century, the distinction between men’s and women’s heels began to emerge. The Enlightenment brought with it changing attitudes towards gender and fashion.

Men’s dress became more subdued and practical, reflecting Enlightenment ideals of rationality and modesty, while women’s fashion continued to be elaborate.

As men abandoned high heels, women adopted them, and by the mid-18th century, they were primarily worn by women. This transition also reflected the increasing association of women with beauty and adornment.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, high heels became increasingly feminized. The invention of photography and later film gave rise to new fashion icons, with actresses often depicted in high heels, reinforcing their association with women’s glamour and sex appeal.


This era solidified high heels as a powerful component of women’s fashion, symbolizing both allure and the complexities of female roles in society.

In contemporary fashion, high heels continue to be a topic of debate around issues of gender, fashion, and functionality. They are celebrated for their ability to enhance confidence and aesthetics but are also critiqued for their practicality and comfort.

The history of high heels is a striking example of how fashion evolves and how it is influenced by social, political, and cultural changes.

Originally designed as a practical tool for male horsemen, they have transformed into a profound symbol of femininity and fashion.


This journey from the battlefields of Persia to the fashion runways of today highlights not only a change in style but also a shift in cultural values and gender norms.


Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: