Brief History of Heels
Most of the lower class in ancient Egypt walked barefoot, but figures on murals dating from 3500 B.C. depict an early version of shoes worn mostly by the higher classes. These were leather pieces held together with lacing. But there are also some depictions of both upper-class males and females wearing heels, probably for ceremonial purposes.
The formal invention of high heels as fashion is typically attributed to the rather short-statured Catherine de Medici (1519-1589). At the age of 14, Catherine de Medici was engaged to the Duke of Orleans, later the King of France. She was small relative to the Duke and hardly considered a beauty. She felt insecure in the arranged marriage knowing she would be the Queen of the French Court and in competition with the Duke’s favorite mistress, Diane de Poitiers.
Looking for a way to dazzle the French nation and compensate for her perceived lack of aesthetic appeal, she donned heels two inches high that gave her a more towering physique and an alluring sway when she walked. Her heels were a wild success and soon high heels were associated with privilege. Unfortunately, this reference may be questionable, as the development of heels did not begin to come about until the late 1580s.
Around 1660, a shoemaker named Nicholas Lestage designed high heeled shoes for Louis XIV. Some were more than four inches , and most were decorated in various battle scenes.
The resulting high “Louis heels” subsequently became fashionable for ladies. Today the term is used to refer to heels with a concave curve and outward taper at the bottom similar to those worn by Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress. They are also sometimes called the “Pompadour heels”.