High heels, pumps, stilettos, or a bad shoe! No matter the name you know the feeling and remarkable look of a beautiful heel. And this is coming from someone who – surprise – doesn’t like wearing heels. I’m definitely more of a sneakers girl, but the rare moment when I throw on a heel, I will admit, there is an extra dose of slayage in my walk.
Heels aren’t physics – although some I will argue against that – but, as anything else, it has its own very interesting history.
In college, as a Gender Studies major and fashion lover, I did some research on the intersection between fashion and gender. But the average person may be surprised that 1) despite the feminine and sexualized image, heels were designed with men in mind and 2) heels were designed with a functional purpose.
Yes, they weren’t made just to make your calves look baller. Hard to believe, right?!
Before we get into the history let’s start with some modern heel lingo.
A class is in session!
General term for women’s shoes with tall, thin heels.
Exclusively refers to women’s shoes with a kitten or higher heel. Although in conversation pump usually refers to a shoe with a lower, thicker heel.
A type of heel, typically between 1 and 2 inches in height. Think middle school dance, 1st Sunday of the month, interview heels.
A woman’s shoe with a thin, high tapering heel.
Wedge heels and boots have a sole in the form of a wedge
What about those missing moments in between in the 1900s? Check out this awesome video by Glamour Magazine on “100 Years of Heels”. Some of the highlights are captured below!
The 1920s After decades of modesty women began to wear skin revealing shoes. Riske! The T strap heel became popular due to dances like the Charleston.
1930s Pumps, lace-ups and buckle pumps in colors white, black-brown and burgundy were most fashionable and became very popular.
1940s Wartime. Due to low supply of leather, heels became very expensive to purchase. Sensible for the time, the full coverage and low heel oxford shoe because of the everyday shoe for women.
The 1960s Popularized by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the low kitten heel (as pictured above) became a “classy” alternative to the stiletto introduced just the decade before.
1980s Manolo Blahnik’s signature pointy and colorful stiletto earned an award from the CFDA, Council of Fashion Designers of America.
The 1990s Tell me what you want, want what you really really want. Influenced by the Spice Girls the typical 90s heel was blocky with a square toe.
Entering the 2000s the heel transitioned from chunky to a sexy and feminine skinny. During this time you saw a huge leap to a new level of sex appeal similar to the t strap heel of the 1920s. Think Britney Spears dance break scene.
Today cut outs, texture, and edgy hardware are big trends in heels. The shorter thicker heel has made a big comeback as a pump, suede thigh boots and flirty strap up summer sandals. I personally am a big fan as I don’t feel as comfortable in 6” heels.
See some hot styles from Brother Vellies below!