Men in High Heels, and Other History Lessons from Fashion School

by Jessica Santina
Fashion School Review Columnist

March 25, 2010

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Fashionable shoe designers Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik have a short French king to thank for their success. To elevate his stature and feel a little bit better about himself, Louis XIV donned high heels in the late 16th century, launching a fashion trend among men that lasted nearly two centuries.

Indeed, Louis XIV was the first of many in the aristocracy who adopted the high heel as a status symbol. High heels were never meant to be comfortable. In fact, those who walked were considered lowly peasants, as the wealthy rode from place to place in carriages.

As for the long pointed toe fashionistas adore? Thank men for that one, too. This style, with pointed toes as long as 60 centimeters, was developed after the Crusades by foot soldiers. (Just be glad we no longer also chain the toes to the knees!)

Then in the mid-1800s, wide boulevards replaced narrow cobblestone ones. Wealthy women began to wear heels to elevate their stature as they window-shopped and met at sidewalk cafes.

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Place your shoe on a table or desk. See how that toe curls up slightly? That's no mistake. That's a fashion design innovation called a "toe spring," created purposely to aid you in walking smoothly with your shoes on. Otherwise, it would be awfully hard to roll into your next step.

As you can see, so much goes into the design of footwear--from historical and sociological considerations, to matters of comfort, image, and ease of walking. And if you want to design footwear, you should study fashion history and footwear and accessory design in fashion school.

Get started by completing a traditional or online high school diploma. Already have that? These fashion school courses can show you how certain features of shoes came to be, and how high fashion footwear designers like Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik (and Louis XIV!) have made the shoe into a work of art.  Live someplace where horseshoes are more common than Jimmy Choo? You can find online degree programs in fashion design, too.


About the Author
Jessica Santina is a freelance writer with a background in media and marketing. She also teaches first-year writing courses at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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