Men have been wearing heels since the sixteenth century, initially this began to serve as a means to help keep their feet in the stirrups when horseback riding. Butchers were also known to wear them to keep their feet out of the remains of the slaughtered animals which they were butchering. By the mid 16th century men began wearing high heels not as a necessity, but as a sign of wealth and stature as only the wealthy could afford them at that time. Around 1660, a shoemaker named Nicholas Lestage designed shoes for King Louis XIV, some which had more than a four inch heel height. Men and women continued wearing heels as a matter of noble fashion throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The wearing of heels by men quickly became the fashion norm, primarily in the upper classes.
By the late eighteenth century there was a trend toward wearing lower heels. As this was the time of the Revolutionary war, most people wished to avoid any semblance of wealth, which resulted in the elimination of heels from the common market for both men and women. In the wake of the French Revolution heels became lower than any other time in the 18th century. Throughout most of the 1800s, flats and sandals were the standard style for both sexes, but the heel resurfaced in fashion during the late 1800’s, almost exclusively among women.
The wearing of heels by men resurfaced in the 1960’s with the Beatle’s boot. Due to the groups’ world wide following and support they helped to influence the wearing of heels by men into the disco era where other names like Elton John and John Travolta joined in making the disco shoe fashionable for men. Heels again became seen being worn by men in the 1980’s when Prince became well known and liked. The practice of men wearing heels continues to grow throughout Westernized countries including the US and Europe, and to a lesser extent in various pockets of Asia. Fashion designers have occasionally featured men wearing heels on the fashion runway since the mid 1990’s. More and more male designers like Rui Leonardes and Rick Owens for example, are incorporating high heels into men’s fashion. Recent observable changes by shoe manufacturers, including the marketing of more masculine styles of heels in significantly larger sizes to accommodate men, appear to emphasize this trend. Dominic Monaghan and rumored Michael Jackson are two other male celebrities which have worn high heels or acknowledge that they wear them. There are also more and more blogs, forums and websites showing up that are geared towards this trend.
So men wearing high heels: is it a fashion as Rick and Rui would like it to become? Is it a fad that will soon pass as it did during the disco era? Or is it history repeating itself where one day it will be common place to see men and women wearing heels? Let’s not forget, not that long ago it was wrong to have children out of wedlock, but it has become common place today. Will men wearing heels ever become common place or is the fashion industry wasting its time, as well as all the webmasters and supporters of this movement?