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If it wasn't for my horse...
January 25, 2013 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Why did men stop wearing high heels?* A History of High-Heeled Shoes.

In the early 1700s, France's King Louis XIV (The Sun King) would often wear intricate heels decorated with miniature battle scenes. Called “Louis heels,” they were often as tall as five inches. The king decreed that only nobility could wear heels that were colored red (les talons rogue) and that no one's heels could be higher than his own.

Previously.

*Most men. There are always exceptions, and then there's Bowie.
posted by ersatz (76 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I own and love boots with Cuban heels. There, I said it.
posted by item at 8:57 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something to listen to in the background while reading this fun post...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2013


I truly feel that we are missing out as a society now that men are no longer expected to convey their status by dressing as foppishly as possible, ideally circa Restoration era. I mean, gorgeous well-tailored suits are, of course, extremely awesome, but why can't we bring back the court wigs and elaborate trunk hose?

sigh.
posted by elizardbits at 8:59 AM on January 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also sassy miniature befeathered tricornes plz.
posted by elizardbits at 8:59 AM on January 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I saw the BBC article earlier. What a great read! It hit so many of my interests - gender roles, fashion, Persian history...
posted by Gordafarin at 9:00 AM on January 25, 2013


Synchronicity.

I was JUST thinking about this earlier today. A friend of mine had posted some photos with the Beefeaters (or whatever they're called), and I started thinking about the Swiss Guard and other, ahem, peculair military garb.

I was thinking "There was a point in time when this sort of thing looked badass. Like, men wore high heels and tights, and that was what men wore."

Then I started thinking about what future generations will think when they see me with an unnecessary piece of silk hanging from my neck, the phallic symbol of this corporate class, and I feel weird. This is usually when I turn off my mind and get back to work.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:00 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Agree with elizardbits. We need moar Dandy Highwaymen.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:02 AM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Eh, the necktie (and earlier cravat) date back over 400 years, so I think you're prolly better off, historically speaking, than the dudes who wore giant starched ruffs.
posted by elizardbits at 9:03 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it wasn't for my horse...

you'd still be in college?
posted by hal9k at 9:06 AM on January 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


I wear paddock boots to work! I apologize for nothing!
posted by boo_radley at 9:10 AM on January 25, 2013


Kitty Stardust & elizardbits, agreed.

I think there are a number of people who find stockings and a Louis heel adorning a fine, strong calf and foot are a fine, fine thing. A little cosmetic is not necessarily bad either.

Pardon, I think my perpetual adolescent Adam Ant crush is coming through.
posted by pointystick at 9:11 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I truly feel that we are missing out as a society now that men are no longer expected to convey their status by dressing as foppishly as possible, ideally circa Restoration era. I mean, gorgeous well-tailored suits are, of course, extremely awesome, but why can't we bring back the court wigs and elaborate trunk hose?

I'm 6'4"... As it is I tower over everybody I meet. With a 5 inch heel....

Hmm, I think I agree with you.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:14 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone ever wear shoes that would hinder a foot pursuit?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:17 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


A FOAF (who is actually me) tells a story about making his way over a pharmacy back yard wall, late at night, pursued by the law while wearing stack heeled boots with platform soles.

(Hey, it was the early 70's. What can I say?)

One heel snapped off as I hit the floor and my running ability was completely ruined. I never made it out of the alley, and the next morning I was locked in the back of the sweat box, making my way to Grizzly Risley Remand Centre.

I haven't worn high heeled shoes since.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:17 AM on January 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Serendipitous!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:18 AM on January 25, 2013


Interesting that the first two links give such different accounts of the early history of the high heel in Europe.
posted by yoink at 9:19 AM on January 25, 2013


Why would anyone ever wear shoes that would hinder a foot pursuit?

Because only the peasants ever actually have to run. Nobility and the like can just gallop off on their mighty steed.
posted by elizardbits at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also sassy miniature befeathered tricornes plz.

Bring back the codpiece, I say.
posted by mhoye at 9:23 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And therefore the horse joke in the title.

Also sassy miniature befeathered tricornes plz.

Heels might be too much of a bother, but I'd support the obligatory wearing of tricornes.
posted by ersatz at 9:23 AM on January 25, 2013


the phallic symbol of this corporate class

aaaand there's my next FPP...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:24 AM on January 25, 2013


This is why I will sometimes wear hiking boots in non hiking context.

That extra inch and half just feels right
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2013


Tricorners

Oh god we're gonna make ColonialPunk a thing aren't we?
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


Eh, the necktie (and earlier cravat) date back over 400 years, so I think you're prolly better off, historically speaking, than the dudes who wore giant starched ruffs.

I used to work with a guy who both hated neckties and believed that they were invented by Tommy Hilfiger in the 50s. Rather than correct him, I would just provoke him into rants about how much he hated Tommy Hilfiger for inflicting neckties on him.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just assume men got wise, and women haven't.

But I am hateful.
(I also do not spend my cash looking flash).
posted by Mezentian at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


and believed that they were invented by Tommy Hilfiger in the 50s.

ASCOTS FOR ALL!
posted by The Whelk at 9:30 AM on January 25, 2013


ASCOTS FOR ALL!

Hi, I am investigating ghosts in your town with my chums.
Do you have any suitable neckwear?
Preferably blue to go with my white sweater.
posted by Mezentian at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Where do you even buy a neckerchief? Does your dad have a time machine?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not only are neckties descended from the item that used to actually hold the neck opening of your shirt closed, they serve a purpose, maybe not a great purpose, even today, they hide the shirt's front closure. Some articles of clothing do just that, hide fasteners. Vests hide suspenders, spats hide laces. Maybe not necessary when we have mass produced buttons and shoe laces nicer than what all but the richest used to be able to obtain.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:39 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Persia.
THE Persia.

Awesome.
posted by Winnemac at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, I had my biennial Wearing of a Tie. It was by choice -- I don't have to wear one for work or anything else -- and that lets me use it as a fashion accessory, which is nice to be able to do.

When it's part of a uniform, especially the "business attire" uniform, I can't stand them.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2013


what if it is the chippendale's bowtie and matching manthong though
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Crunch, a nationwide gym, even offers a 45-minute “Stiletto Strength” classes that strengthen women’s legs and calves.

How ridiculous.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2013


what if it is the chippendale's bowtie and matching manthong though

Like I said, it's a fashion choice.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2013


Ideally we'd be talking about a chapeau bras, the sort that sits on a wig so high that it needs to be put on with a sword or cane.

Look, basically I'm imagining a boardroom meeting where everyone is dressed in the Macaroni fashion and it is the best thing, the most correct thing.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


One area that macho men still wear heels is on cowboy boots. Of course, that ties back in with the whole horse-riding thing mentioned in the article...
posted by notsnot at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look, basically I'm imagining a boardroom meeting where everyone is dressed in the Macaroni fashion and it is the best thing, the most correct thing.

Allow me to call this meeting of the Eastern Tittering Dandies to order! What foppish news is there today?
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gentlemen of the world, if you are willing to dress like Incroyables, I will *cheerfully* be a Merveilleuse.

I might draw the line at damping my gowns to enchance their cling, though.
posted by nonasuch at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


aww, but I got this servant to carry you around while drenching you in rose water. Look I dressed him like a monkey!
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's okay, he can hold my train and reticule.
posted by nonasuch at 9:58 AM on January 25, 2013


I just remembered attending a pirate-themed wedding - went as a foppish nobleman in a golden fabric and white lacy trim and hose, and heeled shoes that presented the calves to good effect. It's funny how one's hand naturally rests on the hilt of one's sheathed sword as one promenades around the ship. Very manly promenading. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:03 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Meh. Elevator shoes look way better.
posted by fatehunter at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2013


Running in heels is actually quite simple. Your balance is already tilted to the ball of your foot, so you just skip letting your heal roll down and you can sprint like a gazelle. I've been able to run quite gracefully in 5 inch heels (though, admittedly, they were period accurate male shoes). Annoyed the crap out of everyone who runs flat-footed. It's actually better for your knees to run on the ball of your foot anyway, since it allows the ankle to help out the knee in cushioning the impact of each stride. Of course, if the shoe doesn't fit correctly, you could end up breaking toes, as the front of the shoe should never cause your toes to squish together. It's amazing how many people think that having their toes immobilized by their foot wear means that they are wearing the right sized shoe. A proper shoe should allow your toes to move and splay when you are balancing on the ball of the foot.
posted by daq at 10:13 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


the dudes who wore giant starched ruffs.

Speaking as a former Anglican choirboy who sang high mass every Sunday, I will only say: "over my bloody and desecrated corpse".
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Though I did subvert the whole thing by wearing my hockey socks, garters and shoulder pads, under my cassock. Even God has to understand about early afternoon games.
posted by bonehead at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, there are special socks for hockey? I have only played girls field hockey so I am sure you can see how this has become hilarious to me.

Also I am having a lot of random and interesting thoughts now on the idea that modern and highly specialized sport uniforms represent a sort of cultural shift in warrior caste-based clothing, even aside from the obvious parallels between actual armor and (american) football padding.
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well once we stopped basing men's wear on military and riding uniforms, we switched over to sporting uniforms for " casual ware"
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2013


Now I have a mental image of choirboys with abnormally wide shoulders, waddling into the choir benches, shoulder checking and high fiving each other like hockey players do before and after games. "Good mass, eh?"
posted by LN at 10:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


elizardbits: "Wait, there are special socks for hockey?"

They are called sockeys and they are awesome.
posted by boo_radley at 10:30 AM on January 25, 2013


Allow me to call this meeting of the Eastern Tittering Dandies to order! What foppish news is there today?

Sirrah, the CFO has informed us that there is to be a...a...oh, I hardly dare say it! A purchasing freeze for the remainder of Q1! That beastly CFO, I do hate him! I hate him and I don't see why we're to listen to him. Oh, do say we mustn't freeze purchasing! Surely the dividends from our overseas investments will cover our dreadful overinvestment in social media penetration - they must do, they simply must!

Oh, and don't you recall, sweet friend, that it was I - yes, clever, pretty I - who said that a simple engagement on Facebook and Twitter would not be enough to raise our awareness - much less identification - with the 18 to 35 demo? It was I, yet no one listened to poor Tancred! Hmph! I could just stamp my feet! Why, I could just die! But that horrid CFO should like that, shouldn't he! See, even now he laughs coquettishly behind his fan! Oh, it's too much, it really is!

But do say we may make purchases! I've had my heart set on the loveliest pair of riding-boots - come, I shall show them to you in the cobbler's window, after our lunch meeting with the vendor from IntelliServ! You'll agree, I'm certain you will, that I must have them! Oh, how I shall strut and preen in my pretty riding-boots - I shall look like a real gentleman of the continent! Furthermore, our contract with Backup Solutions is coming to its end this quarter. If we can't renew it, I shall kick up such a fuss! I shall hold my breath until I turn blue, just you see if I don't!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2013 [34 favorites]


Not just special socks (woolen, to the mid-thigh), but held up by special garters too. For example. The socks keep the knee and shin pads in place.

Which, I might add, made the scene in Bull Durham where Susan Sarandon's character gets so thrilled by someone who can undo her garters properly kind of confusing. Surely this was a skill every male 8-year-old who had a year or two of Bantam would know.
posted by bonehead at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2013


I haven't worn high heeled shoes since the ago of Disco.

And, well, the cavalry boots I wore in SCA. Yeah, not strictly historical, but they made me look so AWESOME.

Black florentine style shirt, baggy black trews tucked into the black boots. Oh, and a dull finished zweihander strapped across my back. Yes, not a pretty sword, but it looked like something you would hit things with. Oh, and a dull green cloak with a dirt brown lining.

Yeah, well, I would have done me.
posted by Samizdata at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2013


OK, Samizdata - you said in the risotto thread that you aren't a serial killer, but then you pull out a Buffalo Bill line here! I don't know what to think! ;D
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:45 AM on January 25, 2013


In the future, when everyone is wearing gray jumpsuits, they will marvel at the foppish ostentatiousness of today's clothing.
posted by happyroach at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


How do we define high heels? Because, Travolta's boots on the Saturday Night Fever poster don't look that much higher than what you'll see on many pairs of cowboy and/or biker boots.
posted by asnider at 11:05 AM on January 25, 2013


I'm tall and I'm not graceful. Why make a bad situation worse?
posted by tommasz at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2013


Well once we stopped basing men's wear on military and riding uniforms,
We stopped?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:10 AM on January 25, 2013


Oh god we're gonna make ColonialPunk a thing aren't we?

Didn't Adam Ant do that about 30 years ago? He was already doing the dandy highwayman thing in his Stand and Deliver video.
posted by jonp72 at 11:18 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


they serve a purpose, maybe not a great purpose, even today, they hide the shirt's front closure.

Wow, if ever there was a scathing denunciation of the tie, that has to be it. "They serve a completely pointless purpose--and they do a really crappy job of it too!"

But is it even true? I've never heard anyone say that the point of a tie is to hide the shirt buttons before. Do you have a citation?
posted by yoink at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2013


I'm currently wearing slippers. Any higher footwear is too ostentatious.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:41 AM on January 25, 2013


Didn't Adam Ant do that about 30 years ago? He was already doing the dandy highwayman thing in his Stand and Deliver video.

Turns out that was Roccocopunk, he just didn't know it.
posted by Mezentian at 11:42 AM on January 25, 2013


I'm picturing FAMOUS MONSTER's entire comment being said by Hugh Laurie in Blackadder the Third.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


because, because nothing says "oderint dum metuant" like stack-heeled cowboy boots with a tux.
posted by jfuller at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2013


From the wikipedia article on the Incroyables, this: "Many public balls were bals des victimes at which young aristocrats who had lost loved ones to the guillotine danced in mourning dress or wore black armbands, greeting one another with violent movements of the head as if in decapitation. A ball held at the Hôtel Thellusson on the rue de Provence in the 9th arrondissement of Paris restricted its guest list to the grown children of the guillotined." is basically the most Goth thing ever.
posted by KathrynT at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


The real question is why the hell people walk around in riding boots. I mean, I ride and I own many pairs of boots but I don't walk about in them. Purposefully slippery soles, a steel shank and rigid heels? There are better walking technologies.
posted by fshgrl at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2013


Now I have The Ballad of Maxwell Demon stuck in my head. (nsfw)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:01 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm picturing FAMOUS MONSTER's entire comment being said by Hugh Laurie in Blackadder the Third.

Actually, any comment in this thread would be enlivened by saying it in the same voice Bon Scott used for ACDC's Big Balls.
posted by jonp72 at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh god we're gonna make ColonialPunk a thing aren't we?

Now that I think about it, you can probably trace ColonialPunk to Paul Revere & the Raiders, who were rocking' tricorne hats back in 1966. Heck, they even did I'm Not Your Stepping Stone, before the Monkees and the Sex Pistols got their grubby little mitts on it.
posted by jonp72 at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



Purposefully slippery soles, a steel shank and rigid heels?


Purposefully slippery soles? maybe my favourite boots were made to emulate riding boots? They are these awesome thigh-high heavy leather buckled things, and I thought that there were no treads because they were made in italy, and they didn't know about snow. They look hot but are such a bitch in canadian winter.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2013


Because they're really bad for your feet? Is this a trick question?
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:35 PM on January 25, 2013


Tread is extremely dangerous in a stirrup because your foot can get caught. At most you get a very tiny bit of ribbed tread on a riding boot. Which is why horse people don't generally walk around in them in the snow.
posted by fshgrl at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bring me my periwig! My snowy white periwig! Oh, bring back the periwigs of my youth!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:43 PM on January 25, 2013


Because they're really bad for your feet? Is this a trick question?
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:35 PM on January 25


Have you ever noticed how some of the most fun things in life are really bad for you? No? Oh well. Carry on.
posted by Decani at 5:03 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What kind of man doesn't own a pair of boots with Cuban heels to wear to country shows, the best hipster gigs and other classy events? Even I can't wear Converse every day.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:20 PM on January 25, 2013


Surely this was a skill every male 8-year-old who had a year or two of Bantam would know.

Due to lack of sleep, i kept reading "Bantam" as "Batman", and was soooo confused for the longest time. That said, Batman skills are pretty useful. ;)

I'm picturing FAMOUS MONSTER's entire comment being said by Hugh Laurie in Blackadder the Third.

I'm picturing it as the dandy fops that used to be on SNL.
posted by usagizero at 8:01 PM on January 25, 2013


But is it even true? I've never heard anyone say that the point of a tie is to hide the shirt buttons before. Do you have a citation

Yeah, I mean I don't have proof but it is a common theory. this on straightdope claims "So far as I can determine, the only thing the tie does at present, apart from enforcing corporate discipline, is to hide your shirt buttons"

And

Several people mention it on this guardian.com notes and queries page.

If it is just some sort of urban legend, I apologize.

Something to consider, in formal attire where a bow tie is worn, it is pretty typical to wear a fly front shirt to conceal the buttons or wear studs.

Check out bond rocking a fly front shirt.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:45 PM on January 25, 2013


I suspect that that's the sartorial equivalent of a folk etymology, Ad hominem. People look at the tie, wonder what possible function it serves, see that it does happen to cover up your buttons and proclaim that that is the "reason" for wearing a tie. But it doesn't stand much scrutiny. After all, bow ties and bolo ties are perfectly acceptable wear for business formal attire, even if they may be regarded as mildly quirky. No one stands in shocked horror at the uncovering of the shirt buttons.

But more to the point, the history of the tie is so clearly unrelated to the history of the button-front shirt. Ties are being eorn as decorative items long before the jacket-and-button-front-shirt combo becomes standard male attire. So, no, I don't buy this one.
posted by yoink at 8:29 AM on January 26, 2013


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