The High Heel: Masculine or Feminine?



Why did men stop wearing high heels? It was all the rage when the aristocracy wore them in all of the latest colors and designs with a very high heel to surpass those in the lower ranks of society. According to William Kremer and Semmelhack, this phenomena started as a riding shoe in Persia for men to be secure in the stirrups of his horse. The high heeled shoe was very admired by Western Europe “who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that, it suddenly seemed, only heeled shoes could supply.” It was a statement of status to wear impractical, uncomfortable clothing and shoes to portray wealth and prestige. “From that time, Europe’s upper classes followed a unisex shoe fashion until the end of the 17th Century, when things began to change again.”

There was a shift from men wearing jewelry, bright colors, and high end fabrics to clothing that was more practical for everyday life. Women on the other hand, were seen as unimportant humans who were emotional and uneducable so their fashion was payed little attention to. Ironically enough, “high heels were seen as foolish and effeminate [and] by 1740 men had stopped wearing them altogether. What caused this shift? What caused the high heel to become an icon of sex appeal in today’s times? Through the uptake in the porn industry in the early 1900s, they sexualized the idea of heels as well as the female self-image. Throughout the decades, Semmelhack has seen several different connotations that the heal has embraced and she believes that there is a possibility for men to wear heels again in the future “if it becomes a signifier of actual power, then men will be as willing to wear it as women.” The shift in gender roles between what is masculine and feminine is truly astounding — will these shifts ever take part in full gender equality?




One thought on “The High Heel: Masculine or Feminine?

  1. It’s interesting that heel usage used to be unisex and now is mostly seen on women. I also find it interesting that after heels were deemed impractical when their usage for stirrups was no longer relevant that only women continued to wear them. I really like your connection to sexism and how specifically after the heel was deemed impractical women began wearing them more and they became a sex object.

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