Friday, March 16, 2012
THE CURIOUS HISTORY OF HIGH HEELS
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've been watching singing competition shows religiously the last few weeks. (My semi-excuse for this is that I have a girl singer in the WIP, but the truth is that I would watch them anyway--The Sing Off, The Voice, and yes, American Idol.)
But whatever my rationale, it was while watching girls strut or totter across the stage in bizarrely high heels that I began to think about why we women do this to ourselves, and sparked by the historical mysteries I've been reading the last few weeks, WHEN we began to do this to ourselves.
In Lauren Willig's and Teresa Grant's books set in early 19th century Europe and Britain, I've gathered that women wore slippers. Or boots. Sensible, as they walked a lot, and the dances at all those balls were serious aerobic exercise! And then in Rhys Bowen's early 20th century Molly Murphy books, Molly and the other women seem to wear reasonably practical shoes, although Molly does complain about climbing an ivy vine up a wall in her "pointed and impractical shoes."
So, I wondered, were the tortuous heels a mid-to-late 20th century development?
It should be obvious by now that I am no fashionista, but little did I realize the extent of my ignorance!
I don't know if there's any evidence of pre-literate humans wearing high heeled shoes, but the Egyptians did. The upper classes, both male and female, wore them as a mark of status. And Egyptian butchers wore them for more grisly reasons--to keep their feet out of the slaughterhouse blood. Greeks and Romans wore them. Pattens and chopines were invented in the Middle Ages, outer wooden platforms that kept expensive inner shoes out of the mud and manure. (Yes, that is a shoe on the right...)
Catherine de Medici is said to have introduced the formal high heel in the 1530s, and we have been up and down--excuse the pun--ever since.
The feminist revolt of the 1970s against high heels as symbols of male subjugation didn't last long. (Think Sex in the City.) Heels now are higher than ever, and some women are even having their feet surgically altered to fit more comfortably into stilettos. Ouch.
If you want to know more, here's a fascinating little history here:
So what about you, REDS and readers? Low or high? Manolo Blahnik's or Birkenstocks? And to our guys, do you notice--or care--when women wear heels?
While, like Catherine de Medici, I could use the extra height, and I'll wear a moderate heel when absolutely necessary for dressing up, I otherwise live in my Teva's...
(P.S.--the winner of Lauren Willig's The Garden Intrigue is Reine! So, Reine, if you'll send me your mailing address at deb at deborahcrombie dot com, I'll pass it along. You lucky girl, you.)