History Of Women's Shoes: How High Heels Eventually Became Feminine

Women's shoes in White Kid with clog. Italian, 17th century. (Getty Images)

Today, the sexy stiletto is a symbol of feminine beauty, but like most such symbols, it comes at a cost. Women often joke that the tightest, highest, and most uncomfortable heels must have been designed by men, but the truth is that high-heeled shoes were originally only worn by men, and they endured their fair share of controversy on their journey to become staples of women's fashion.

Ancient High Heels

The earliest high-heeled shoes that we know about come from Ancient Greece, where theater was everything. Much like those behind today's Hollywood blockbusters, production designers used their own visual language to communicate elements of a story to audiences, including the use of heeled shoes to make characters of higher social status appear taller than their low-status counterparts. Incidentally, all Greek actors were men. Meanwhile, tons of ancient heels have been unearthed in Egypt, which historians believe were worn exclusively for ritual ceremonies, possibly to bring the wearer closer to the sky and therefore the gods.