If you’ve got an undeniable compulsion to buy shoes you’re not alone. Surely you know that already though - all you need to do is take a look around to see we’re a society obsessed. But that’s not new either. More than 200 years ago, the infamous Marie Antoinette is said to have gone to her execution wearing two-inch heels. Even if you’re really uninterested in shoes, you have to admit, her footwear added a fabulously cheeky touch.
Although we have millions of options, styles and brands to choose from these days, we don’t place the same type of emphasis on shoes as some throughout the ages did. Ladies shoes weren’t always the primary focus either. For instance, did you know that 700 years ago the length of shoe toes were a symbol of status and rank among men? The longer the better, so to speak, and some kings boasted shoe tips of up to 30 inches. They couldn’t have been very comfortable so it seems discomfort in the name of fashion has always been practised, or perhaps they were simply overcompensating? On a more practical note, heeled boots for men became trendy in the 1500’s when they were designed to keep the foot from slipping out of stirrups. Later, Louis XIV made heels fashionable by sporting shoes with five inch heels that depicted miniature battle scenes on them.
Shoes were a vital part of society much earlier on than that though, and not just because they looked good on feet. In 1000 AD, brides were given away by their fathers who would then give the groom one of the bride’s shoes as a symbol of transference of authority. And instead of throwing a bouquet, the bride would throw her shoe. Sometimes grooms sipped toasts from the bride’s shoe instead of a glass. Interestingly, in some cultures throwing a shoe at someone is the ultimate sign of disrespect - remember the shoe-throwing incident involving George Bush?
Starting off as necessity but incorporating status, luxury, comfort and artistic expression along the way, shoes have literally been part of human history from the very beginning. The earliest pictures of shoes can be found on cave paintings in locations around the world. We’ll never know who the first person to ever put something on their feet was, but some believe that Leonardo da Vinci was the first person to invent the heel. About 70 years after he invented it, people started using heels to make themselves appear taller. A popular first example of this was 14 year-old Catherine d’ Medici who wore heels at her wedding to gain two inches in height - and it’s been done ever since.
Heeled shoes, although incredibly popular since invention, took a knock in France after Marie Antoinette’s excessive love for them put a dampener on the trend during the French Revolution, and they were made lower for the rest of the century. While other popular styles came to the forefront during that time, it was only a matter of time before heels made a sharp comeback. In the 50’s the stiletto, invented in Italy and adopted by celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, took the world by storm and changed the way we wore heels forever.