I’ve seen this image going around, and I feel compelled to point out that it’s only half-right. It’s true that high heels were originally a masculine fashion, but they weren’t originally worn by butchers – nor for any other utilitarian purpose, for that matter.
High heels were worn by men for exactly the same reason they’re worn by women today: to display one’s legs to best effect. Until quite recently, shapely, well-toned calves and thighs were regarded as an absolute prerequisite for male attractiveness. That’s why you see so many paintings of famous men framed to show off their legs – like this one of George Washington displaying his fantastic calves:
… or this one of Louis XIV of France rocking a fabulous pair of red platform heels (check out those thighs!):
… or even this one of Charles I of England showing off his high-heeled riding boots – note, again, the visual emphasis on his well-formed calves:
In summary: were high heels originally worn by men? Yes. Were they worn to keep blood off their feet? No at all – they were worn for the same reason they’re worn today: to look fabulous.
so then how did they become a solo feminine item of attire?
A variety of reasons. In France, for example, high heels fell out out of favour in the court of Napoleon due to their association with aristocratic decadence, while in England, the more conservative fashions of the Victorian era regarded it as indecent for a man to openly display his calves.
But then, fashions come and go. The real question is why heels never came back into fashion for men – and that can be laid squarely at the feet of institutionalised homophobia. Essentially, heels for men were never revived because, by the early 20th Century, sexually provocative attire for men had come to be associated with homosexuality; the resulting moral panic ushered in an era of drab, blocky, fully concealing menswear in which a well-turned calf simply had no place – a setback from which men’s fashion has yet to fully recover.
FASHION HISTORY IS HUMAN HISTORY OK
Thank you, history side of tumblr. That “stay out of blood” thing has been driving me mad.
Wait. So, you’re telling me that the reason straight boys dress horribly is because they’re not over a 100 year old gay panic?
You’re telling me that the gross, baggy, shapeless menswear that has been almost singlehandedly ruining my life is the result of a bunch of dudes in the 1900’s collectively going ‘AAAAH WHAT IF THEY THINK WE’RE GAY’
Fuck that shit. BRING BACK MENS HEELS
BRING BACK MENS TIGHTS
MAKE MEN SEXY AGAIN