As outlined earlier, men dressed in suits and simple clothing arose from the rise of the bourgeoisie and their strong work ethic: working was deemed “ideal” masculinity and the suit reflected this notion. The suit has the power to convey respectability and the desire to be professional; but beyond that it seems to be devoid of any further meaning. As menswear became more simple and restricted to the three piece suit, changes to men’s clothing seemed to freeze. Meanwhile, women’s fashions became more and more outlandish and went through numerous fashion cycles.
However, with the arrival of 2014 men’s fashions are going through some drastic changes none more so than men’s footwear. Think heels are just for Victoria Secret Angels? Think again! Men are now gracing the catwalks with high heels, French dancers bopping to Beyonce’s Single Ladies engulf our screens whilst wearing high heels and boys on the London streets are even sporting little high heels! Yes, men are now in heels! However, this is not an entirely new phenomenon and perhaps heels are reclaiming their original destiny: to be worn by men.
The first example of heeled shoes appears in the heyday of the Persian Empire (modern day Iran), when a fighting horseman required footwear that secured him in his stirrups as he stood up and shot arrows. The heel was simply a practical design feature meant for battle. That’s right they were designed by men for men!
At the end of the sixteenth century, the ruler of Persia joined forces with Europe to help defeat the rising Turkish Ottoman Empire, and thus began a European fascination with all things Persian. Aristocratic men sought to emulate the masculinity of the soldiers and the only way to do that without actually going to war was to imitate their uniforms. Men began wearing heels and as poorer men caught on to the trend, the richer men made their heels taller and the high heel was born.
The high hell denoted class and wealth. Thus, the higher the heel the wealthier and of higher class the man appeared. Louis XIV ordered that only people of the court could wear red high heels, all at once heels became the epitome of sophisitication and status. Women soon caught onto the craze in order to gain higher status also and wore a tapered toe to make their feet appear smaller.
However, high heels fell out of fashion during the Great Masculine Renunciation of fashion followed by the French Revolution where Louis XIV lost the throne (and his head). Men and women rejected all forms of elaborate clothing and items; heels being one of them.
High heels did return however with toe-crippling vengeance in the mid-eighteenth century due to photography and pornography. Heels had been transformed into exclusively feminine items. Naked women would now pose in high heels forcing to contort their bodies into sexual shapes (which someone I don’t know who managed to figure out). High heels from this moment had been firmly planted as feminine which is why the average man isn’t seen walking about in heels on the streets today. However, this is changing. Simon Cowell and Robert Downey Junior have been captured wearing heels and new fashions of 2014 are featuring men on the catwalks walking in high heels. Could high heels be seen as the epitome of status and masculinity once more? Time will tell.
Entwistle, J (2000) The Fashioned Body. USA Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Pigeons and Peacocks (2013) MEN IN HEELS: THE HISTORY, THE HYSTERIA AND THE HYPE [online] available from< http://www.pigeonsandpeacocks.com/2013/06/men-in-heels-the-history-the-hysteria-and-the-hype/> (1st June 2014)