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And the concept of the "elevated" foot has been present in Japanese fashion for ages; the geta, a shoe made of a plank of wood with two others underneath to hold the wearer off the ground, can be up to 18cm high.The chopine was eventually outlawed in France, for various reasons.And it was European royal men who really took them and ran with them.(So to speak.)The real fashion maven, and patron saint of the heel, was Louis XIV of France, otherwise known as The Sun King.When Catherine de Medici married the Duke of Orleans in 1533, the 14-year-old bride apparently wore towering heels to look slightly more like an adult, instead of chopines or flats.The then gender-bending move made a splash, and the door opened to women wearing more typical "riding heels".They were originally designed to keep the mud off the more delicate "real" shoes of ladies walking in the street, often made of easily-stained material like animal skin or satin, but they developed into decorative symbols all of their own, and a Europe-wide trend. The Japanese have had them for centuries, under different names, but for the same essential idea: keeping an expensive kimono from touching the dirty ground, and looking as distinctive as possible.Apprentice geisha, known as maiko, will wear footwear called okobo, which are made of solid wooden blocks and tower above the ground.
Like the Greeks, they used their heels (which, again, were significantly high, flat platforms) for a definite purpose: murals dating to around 3500 BC show them wearing the shoes for religious ceremonies. The higher the heel, the closer to the Egyptian gods?One of the most convincing theories about how the high heel took over the world comes from shoe expert and academic Elizabeth Semmelhack, a curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Canada. Persian riding shoes were the real source of the first trend.Persian art shows that many noblemen of the medieval Persian empire wore heels as riding shoes, often in decadent materials and bright colors, to enable them to get a better grip on their stirrups.You could be forgiven for thinking that high heeled shoes were constructed purely to torture women into feeling as if their toes had fallen off by the end of a night out, right? They've got a long, storied, and pretty weird history going back thousands of years, incorporating religious ceremonies, prostitution, decadent kings, gender-bending fashionistas, and child brides.And what's more, high heels weren't originally intended for women at all.
According to Semmelhack, the European royals really perked up and took notice when a Persian monarch, Shah Abbas, came to tour European courts and make noble friends in the 1500s. The idea of the heel actually being a "female" notion took a very long time to develop.