Toastmasters Speech 3: A history of heels

Fashion accessories. Hats, scarves, belts, jewelry and shoes have been used for practical purposes, decorative purposes, both. They’ve been used to communicate feelings, wealth and status as well. Shoes, heels in particular have always been worn in various cultures and time periods. From the ancient Egyptians to the modern era women were not the main adorners of the item. In fact, many respectable women were not allowed to wear heels. So, who did? Who used heels as a show of class, power and to provide an edge in war? Men did.

If we time travel back to Persia and look in on their battles, you’ll notice the warriors riding fiercely with bow and arrow inching there way up to get into the best position to shoot. A feat in itself is maintaining balance, shooting, reloading your bow and not getting knocked off. Stirrups did a decent job at providing these warrior jockeys a plain to balance on, but they were never locked into place and could still easily slip out. That’s when the heel became a stabilizing factor in horsemanship. Men on horseback wore heels to help balance them when they were shooting enemies from their horses. These warriors would make there way to Europe and soon men realized there value for not just war.

Men had a use for heels. I think they were genuinely excited to sport them. Mainly because only the wealthy could afford them and that meant that there feet were no longer covered in feces after walking the streets, they were intricate as Louis xiv painted his heels red. Yes, he was the originator of the red heel, not Christian Louboutin and just like the more fabric you wore meant that the larger the shoe you could afford to wear. The larger the shoe the better your societal position and how you were perceived.

The heel provided height. Height has always been a big deal for people even to this day as we have society favoring talent and skill in certain areas like sports based on height. Even in relationships we can be picky and the Napoleon complex is still strewn around. The heel provided height, which allowed men to appear taller, larger and more competitive. For courtesans, the only women allowed to wear heels in Europe they would wear shoes of 10 or 18 inches to tower above their competition and have handfuls of men help them walk.

Men popularized the heel to showcase power, class and competition. Today, heels take on a whole new meaning. They cause contentious arguments about their history, usefulness and fashion purpose. It’s really not that weird that men were the first to wear this item. At one point, knitting was a guild and only men were allowed to do so, whereas know its nearly exclusively a women’s craft-just as heels are supposed to be a women’s shoe.

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