Welcome to My World: For the love of shoes, heels and stilettos, now and then

Carole Christman Koch, columnist, wearing her granddaughter’s heels, while leaning on the wall for balance.
Carole Christman Koch, columnist, wearing her granddaughter’s heels, while leaning on the wall for balance. Submitted photo

I was elated to be able to wear my first 2-inch heels for confirmation in 1954. However, as the years went by, I started to hate heels. I often wondered why women had to be tormented with fashionable heels, and not men. In researching some trivia on heels, I was ecstatic to find out men wore them too!

Throughout European history, the heel became a status symbol for both men and women of nobility, to set them apart from the lower class.

In ancient Greece and Rome, actors wore sandals called “kothomi” or “buskins” with high wooden or cork soles. The heels distinguished the social class of its character.

During the Middle Ages, “pattens” or overshoes were attached to expensive shoes to keep them protected from the mud and filth in the streets.

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Another form of platform overshoes were the “chopines,” from 17 to 30 inches high, but only women wore them. When walking in the street, they needed a servant on each side, to keep their balance.

Kings loved their heels, especially Louis XIV of France, who loved red ones. No one was allowed to wear heels, not even a smidgen above his 5” heels. In addition, no one was allowed to enter his court without wearing red heels.

By the 17th century, men saw heels as too effeminate and wearing them declined. Napoleon, during the French Revolution, banned heels for both genders. Soon, women gave heels up completely, at least for awhile.

In the New World, the Puritans banned women from wearing heels to entrap a man, or they could be tried as a witch.

Historians aren’t quite sure about who created the stiletto, but most agree it was designer, Roger Vivier, in the 1950s. In 1992, a French show designer, Christian Louboutin, created his signature red-soled stiletto, which sell from $700 to over $1,000.

The highest heels on record are in the Guinness Book of World Records, 20-inch platform boots created by James Sylemiong. Heidi Klum, German model, wore 12-inche heels on the runway at McQueen Falls, in 2009. Lady Gaga, singer, in 2010, came to the Grammy awards in her 10-inch heels.

Men haven’t been left out of the fashionable heel. Here are four places they can find both women’s and men’s flats to stilettos: All Heels for Men, Sexy Shoes, High Heels Passion, and High Heel Place.

In some countries, like Britian, its still legal that women have to wear heels to work. Just ask Nicole Thorp, who was sent home for not coming to work in heels. She’s still working on a petition to change the law.

The opposite can occur as well. An Australian businessman, Ashley Maxwell Lam, loves wearing his 6-inch stilettos to work, even if his boss doesn’t insist on it.

Hurry to the Beta Shoe Museum, where they exhibit footwear from around the world. Elton John, singer, songwriter, is on his last tour and has his 7.5-inch heels on display at the museum.

Men, you might be interested in a worldwide walk, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. Frank Baird created this walk in 2001, which started the movement to raise money for domestic violence, rape crisis centers and more. I’ll even let you borrow my granddaughter’s heels to walk.

You know, women, as well as men, have so many more shoe choices than ever before—from sneakers, sandals, boots, wedges, pumps, to stilettos. But this is what I told my granddaughter, Karissa, after she took my photo while wearing a pair of her heels. As I stood on my tippy toes, I said, “Do you realize you can’t have as much fun up here,” and then I placed my feet flat on the floor, “as you can down here?”

I wonder if she believes me!