The History of Banning High Heels

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I just have to share this video titled The History of Banning High Heels by fashion historian Nicole Rudolph about all the different reasons that society tried to ban high heels from the 1850's to the 1920's. The reasons, from our point of view, are so silly that they are hilarious.

Spoiler alert: Back then a high heel was defined as anything higher than about 1.5 inches!



I have a pair of platform heels (3") and some spikes (2 1/2) but almost always wear sneakers.


There were bans prior to that

There were bans prior to that. In Venice, chopines were regulated at one point because the high heels had become so crazy that women had to have a man on both sides to guide her, and they decided that the risk of people falling in the canals and drowning was too great. (High heels became platform heels, called chopines, and those became crazy tall - some up to 20 inches in height. The original purpose was to keep hems and feet out of the mud and muck)

I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

I also remember that fact of

I also remember that fact of history. And I can at least empathize with the Venecian ban. Especially in light of some more recent YouTube clips of "professional" models falling from platform heels in the 10-12 inch range, and the try-ons of the offers from the "fetish" market.

On the other hand, some years back I got a pair of [chunky] platform sandals with a wood platform of about 3" and a heel of about 4". On smooth floors they were OK. On even slightly uneven ground there was a very high risk of turning my ankles. Even a small pebble had the potential stumble me. I considered the almost flat bottom sole and the rather big ground-contact-area to be the cause. There was very little rounding front-to-back to allow for an elegant roll of the walking foot. It required a lot of effort to keep the front of the foot from banging onto the floor while walking. And running was more akin to clomping.
I have found that the higher the platform, the bigger of a leverage even a small unevenness has to twist an ankle and topple the wearer.

There were practical bans, too.

In the early 60s I was working on the final testing/commissioning of computers (rather bigger than the one you're using to read this!). It was an old factory but the floor had been refurbished in beautifully varnished wood. Stiletto heels were new at the time and they were banned from our floor because of the damage they did to the wood. In fact special plastic tips were provided for those women who insisted on wearing them.

My father wore a 'high heel' on his right foot for most of his life. He had osteo TB which damaged his right hip. The top of the femur was removed and pinned directly to his pelvis which resulted in his right leg being some 150mm shorter than his left. Hence the built up heel. It did dreadful damage to his foot. Artificial hips were unavailable in the 1920s.

re: practical bans

I concur with your observation on wood floors and stilettos.

I remember reading a history of the development of the Boeing 747 published in the mid-to-late 1970's. And it caught my curiosity (in my early teens) that the fashion of women wearing stiletto heels in the late 1960's caused so much headache to engineers designing and calculating the material and thickness of the cabin floors. That factoid sent me of to learn about physics (at least the relevant part to the problem) before we got Physics 101 in high school.

Legs of different length also cause damage to the hips and spine. And the built up sole and heel also cause muscle problems due to the uneven weight distribution. Not to mention the rolling gait it imposes on the upper body to compensate.

I have never really worn any.

leeanna19's picture

I have never really worn any. 3 inch heel boots a couple of times. As I'm 5ft 9 if I go out I wear flats as I don't want to look too tall. Boring I know


Gotta be

At least 3" for me!

PS: Not platforms!

"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
George Carlin

Minor historical note.

Minor historical note. First a bit of background - I spent 9 years involved in theatre producations.

Heels were developed to show off the calves more than lift clothing. _Who_ they were designed for is rather interesting. Men. Not women. You see, at the time, women above the peasant class _did not show their ankles or anything higher_. If you've gone to a Shakespearean play, or many plays written through the 1800's, you'll have noticed that the men quarter turn. That is, if Romeo and Mercutio were talking, they'd be facing the audience, then turned a quarter of the way towards each other. This was, ostensibly, to project their voices off of the stage, while showing they were talking to each other.

It also allowed both calves to be shown to the audience, and not just from sitting side by side. The poses worked that way as well. Remember that up until the early 1800's, it was very rare to see a woman on a stage, or even with a traveling troupe (as an actress), because it just wasn't done. Even after that, it was rare until into the Victorian period, where it gained more and more traction.

So, women picked up the European "high heels" fetish from the men, until it effectively vanished from male fashion in anything other than dress shoes and cowboy boots.

Does it mean anything? Not really. It's just fun trivia.

I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

What about the 'Glam rock era'?

When men wore platforms and heels just like women? I have memories of Elton John on TOTP (Top of the Pops) wearing some frankly outrageous shoes. Members of bands like Slade did the same.


Men in heels

I actually remember around 1975/1976 there was one guy in particular in our church choir who wore some pretty high heeled platform shoes. Since I was pre-school they seemed to be very high in my memory. (He was rather on the short side.) This was allowed in a church that condemned even the slightest hint of feminine wardrobe on men. Even pink/rose shirts were an absolute no-go, and high heels were considered the ultimate domain of women.
But the effects of that particular hypocrisy on my own life and development deserves a separate dedicated post.

I had

Maddy Bell's picture

Some rather natty black and green platform shoes in the early 70’s, about 2” heel and 2”sole. Of course they went with my denim flares and jacket - I was the epitome of fashion!


Madeline Anafrid Bell