High heels have been around for a very long time. Though they are not the epitome of sophistication and womanly sexiness, they have been serving similar purposed for men and for women for a long time. High heeled shoes are depicted in ancient Egyptian art in murals but the first history of heels goes back even further. The Egyptian depictions took place around 4000 BC and showed images of people wearing high heels in murals on the walls of ancient tombs and temples. The shoes depicted were flexible pieces of leather held on the foot with leather lacings. The next incarnation was a sort of platform sandal in 200 BC. These platform sandals were called kothorni. They had high wood soles and were used predominantly by tragic Roman actors. The kothorni were utilized mostly to give the advantage of height. Next, in 1000 CE the tradition came into play that the father of the bride in a Saxon wedding would give one of the bride’s shoes to the groom in order to symbolize the passing of authority from one man to another.
Shoes were not always simply for the purpose off beauty nor were they always simply functional. In 1154 King Henry II of England began to wear a shoe with narrow and pointed toes. This started a trend among the courtiers even though it was rumored that Henry wore these shoes in order to hide a deformation of his toes. In the 12th century CE, knights began to wear shoes with downward curving toes in order to keep their feet in the stirrups of their horses. Shoe toes were a big point of contention. It came to a point in the early thirteenth century where the length and pointed extremes of one’s shoes were directly indicative of rank and prowess within a community. Kings and princes would wear shoes with toes up to 30 inches long!
The women’s’ obsession with shoes doesn’t begin in any modern form until the mid 18th century with Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette who start trends in their courts regarding footwear. Madame de Pompadour made popular shoes that were named after her “Pompadour”. Unfortunately these shoes were very high and very narrow and too many ladies fainted at court because they tried to reduce the apparent size of their feet. Marie Antoinette went to her death in two inch heels less than 50 years later.