A brief and interesting history of shoes. -- Dallas
(See also: Men in Black, by John Harvey; a book that's been on my shelf for years, but which I've never found time to read.)
Why did men stop wearing high heels?
For generations they have signified femininity and glamour - but a pair of high heels was once an essential accessory for men.
Beautiful, provocative, sexy - high heels may be all these things and more, but even their most ardent fans wouldn't claim they were practical.
They're no good for hiking or driving. They get stuck in things. Women in heels are advised to stay off the grass - and also ice, cobbled streets and posh floors.
And high heels don't tend to be very comfortable. It is almost as though they just weren't designed for walking in.
Originally, they weren't.
"The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the near east as a form of riding footwear," says Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
Good horsemanship was essential to the fighting styles of the Persia - the historical name for modern-day Iran.
"When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively," says Semmelhack.
At the end of the 16th Century, Persia's Shah Abbas I had the largest cavalry in the world. He was keen to forge links with rulers in Western Europe to help him defeat his great enemy, the Ottoman Empire.
So in 1599, Abbas sent the first Persian diplomatic mission to Europe - it called on the courts of Russia, Germany and Spain.
A wave of interest in all things Persian passed through Western Europe. Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats, who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that, it suddenly seemed, only heeled shoes could supply.
As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes - and the high heel was born.
In the muddy, rutted streets of 17th Century Europe, these new shoes had no utility value whatsoever - but that was the point.
"One of the best ways that status can be conveyed is through impracticality," says Semmelhack, adding that the upper classes have always used impractical, uncomfortable and luxurious clothing to announce their privileged status. [continue reading]
I seem to recall reading about a princess (Spanish I believe) who was the first European woman to wear heals, for her wedding because she was short, IIRC it was at the end of the 17th century. A hundred years after men started wearing them. At any rate, men still wear heels, they're just not a fashion piece, except in Texas; and during the 70s, but I blame that on drugs.
Men also used to go around in tights all the time. Wonder if that was combined with the above.
No. The tights/leggings went with flat-soled unheeled shoes.
And then a short French monarch needed to boost himself to average height for his time. For that matter, the cited article has an illustration showing the Sun King not only in heels, but a skirt over his gartered tights.
A thought. Two of the three courts mentioned (Germany -although there was "a" German court at the time- and Spain) put a huge premium on the mounted "gentleman of quality". The German ritter (rider), the Spanish cabellero (horseman), and the French chevalier (horseman) were the Continental nobility or "quality" of the time. The Spanish further differentiated the heeled shoe by introducing polishing, thus showing that the wearer normally rode high in the saddle, above the dust that the commoners trod through. That's also when boots started to become de riguer for the horseman, more surface to polish up, further emphasizing your status and giving a modicum of protection to the lower legs.
Interesting information. Yes, setting oneself above the masses was a driving factor in most aristocratic fashions. One reason why men of what, the 18th c, feminized themselves with wigs and makeup.It showed they did not have to survive by doing manual labor. To be effete was to be powerful. Certainly not the attitude we have today.
Also, there were women's dresses, which were so extravagant. One reason for the hoop skirt: It took more material to make and was therefor a sign of excessive wealth.
I don't have an especial interest in the history of fashion, but I do have a moderate interest in the history of inanimate objects like clothing, painting, coffee and foods, technology in general, and even language. We take so much for granted, and we seldom stop to think of what life was like before the loom, the printing press, the kiln, the steam engine, etc.
Fashion, in particular, was driven by so many factors, such as:
1. Exposure to foreign cultures and materials and dyes
2. Advances in textile technology and creation
3. The whims of the aristocracy
4. The rising merchant class/middle class of the 17th & 18th centuries
As far as whether or not men's heels were mixed with tights, I tend to think not. From the paintings I recall seeing (some with the very shoe shown above), they were starting to be worn with pants or pantaloons or whatever they were calling them back then.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare has the castle porter make a joke about a tailor and says...something, something..."coming out of a French hose." Well, a French hose was a pair of leg-length pants which were being popularized in France at the time. Of course, in England they were still wearing those ridiculous ballooned shorts.
Brief history of men's underwear
Most guys pull them on every morning when they step out of the shower. In fact, at this very moment, there's probably nothing closer to you than your underwear.
It's taken thousands of years to perfect the boxers or briefs that you're wearing right now, though, so here's a brief and incomplete look at the history of men's underwear:
Loincloths offer some coverage
The first known underwear dates back almost 7000 years, when prehistoric man used leather to cover and protect his loins while running prehistoric errands. For several millennia, not much changed.
Ancient Egyptian art shows everyone from the pharaohs on down the line decked out in loincloths of their own. The pharaohs even wore a sort of specialized kilt/loincloth called a shendoh, and took extra supplies of the garment into their pyramids for use in the afterlife.
Codpieces become all the rage
Variations on the loincloth seem to have persisted into the Middle Ages, when loose-fitting trousers called braies came into fashion. These linen duds extended from the waist to around mid-calf, and once the wearer stepped into his breeches he had to lace them tight around his waist and shins. Although all of the tying wasn't so convenient, these braies had the advantage of offering a lot of coverage, so if a laborer got too hot he could strip down to his skivvies while still maintaining some sense of decorum. [continue reading]