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The Cultural Evolution of High Heels

Follow the evolutionary changes of high heeled footwear, through time, and through several mutations and innovations.

Matthew Bouchard

on 20 April 2010

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Transcript of The Cultural Evolution of High Heels

Welcome to the evolution of the high heel. Please, feel free to follow along with the essay that has been handed in to you. Move your cursor to the "More" menu below, and expand it to full-screen. Use only the 'Right' and 'Left' pointing arrows to navigate. Or, when your finished, use the crosshairs to see the whole map.
Enjoy your trip!
High Heels: Fitness Maximizing Behaviour, for the Minimized Fitness of the Carrier 200 B.C.E.: The Greek Kothornos (Cuthurnos) Where have all the platforms gone? Perhaps the functionality of the trait was low or non-existent after Greek theatre phased out of the society? On the other side of the World, convergent evolution
leads to some interesting footwear in Asia. Manchu Shoes: 2nd Century BCE - 12th Century CE Functionality:
To be worn when outdoors in abverse weather conditions.
Expensive shoes, without the mess! The opening of trade routes East/West in the 13th century may have aided in the fitness of the trait of higher platforms. The transmission over the small populations of Greece and some small areas in Asia was quick. However, the lack of a centralized society in Europe probably played a role in the lack of any adoption of a platformed shoe until this time. In Asia, the 'tradition' stayed and evolved, as in Asia and Japan as well as many other areas, due to the safe transmission of many fashion traits in a relatively stable community of carriers. This also aids in mutation and innovation. Geta Many Asian styles tended to be functional, with an incredible variety of uses for relatively the same trait, with differing results:
Egyptian Butchers would wear heels in order to be able to perform their jobs more efficiently over large carcasses.
Persian nomads would wear heels in order to keep a larger portion of their feet from touching the scorching hot sand.
East Indian and Mongolian Horsemen wore boots with large hooked heels in order to keep their feet in the stirrups at high speeds.
The Venetian Chopines Type of women's platform shoe that was popular in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
Chopines were originally used as a patten, clog, or overshoe to protect the shoes and dress from mud and street soil. Besides their practical uses, the height of the chopine became a symbolic reference to the cultural and social standing of the wearer; the higher the chopine, the higher the status of the wearer. Over time, the front end is dropped to facilitate walking.
The French adopt this innovation, as the wealthy courts of Louis XIV adopted the slightly modified heel. Asia Greece Italy France The French Revolution (1789-1799) The increase in warfare and harsh living conditions, during this period increases the popularity of a more practical shoe. Furthermore, considering the political upheaval and disdain for the ruling monarchy, all cultural symbols relating to higher classes are condemned. The Sun King - Louis XIV Red heels eventually replaced the chopine's symbolism of wealth and status - the hue being a rare colour to find in nature, and therefore a rare dye. England The beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 18th to 19th century shifts focus from France to England.... Women in this era slowly but steadily introduce themselves factories.
Fashion trends masculinize according to practicality: pants are preferred to skirts and heels remain an unpopular choice.
Boots and flat soles are preferred.
Even more surprising, the higher classes also adopt the new trend... Furthermore, feminism begins to rear its head, and the "liberated woman" makes her appearance. By the time World Wars I and II have passed, the majority of women have remanied in the workplace. the year of 1945 not only celebrates the return of the war heroes, but also the return of the high heel... The United States of America Once the men have returned to work, the women remain in homes, thus causing a decrease in the need for a practical shoe. Moreover, the women who decide to stay in the workplace postwar are faced with new dresscodes which make heels mandatory in certain cases. from 1945 to 1960 Meanwhile, in England, Victorian puritanism has forced sexual expression to redirect its efforts. The emphasis placed on women to cover up theri feet, ankles, and legs has caused an oversexualization of these body parts. The mere sight of an ankle can now make a man swoon. This causes the erotic and fetish market to develop shoes that reflect the sexualization of feet. The trend has kept on for a number of years. While the designs today are more daring, the concept remains. Could it be that the increased popularity of heels contributed to the Baby Boom? The 1960s in America were a time for change. Feminism started sweeping the nation and women everywhere were urged to "release the captive foot of womanhood".
This causes heels to drop and thicken, recreating the old favourite: the platform. The 1980s were characterized by the 'punk' fashion. Non-conformism and counter-traditional styles were encouraged. The best selling shoe for the past 40 years in terms of design has been the rubber-soled trainer. Thank you very much for your attention, and I hope this outline gives a brief, but interesting account for the evolution of the high heel.
--Matthew Bouchard

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