A Brief History of Men in Heels

From royal to rugged, rock star to politician, several men throughout history wore heeled shoes.

While high heels are more synonymous in today’s world with Carrie Bradshaw and glamorous women, the shoe style was first worn by men. The first high-heeled shoes recorded in history were worn by the Persian cavalrymen of the 10th century. The soldiers wore the heeled shoes to keep their feet secured in stirrups while riding horseback. Since then, men’s heels have gone on to represent a plethora of meanings, from indicating high social status in the 17th century to boosting the appearance of politicians’ heights.

Recently, men’s heels made quite a splash this season at Fashion Week Men’s in Paris and Milan. Designers such as Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten and Jimmy Choo all showcased heeled boots and platforms on the runway.

FN takes a look back at the men who dared to wear the trend.

King Louis XIV, 1670s

King Louis XIV, historical, men in heels
King Louis XIV.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

While historians disagree on whether Louis XIV wore high heels to make him appear taller, the monarch is credited for transforming the fashion statement into a badge of honor. In the early 1670s, Louis declared heeled shoes with red soles a mark of distinction and permitted select members of his court to wear them.

Buffalo Bill Cody, late 1860s-1880s

Buffalo Bill Cody, historical, men in heels
Buffalo Bill Cody.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Heels continued to be worn throughout history for practical reasons well into the 19th century.  One legendary American figure who wore heeled boots was Buffalo Bill Cody, a soldier, cowboy and showman.

David Bowie, 1970s-1990s

David Bowie, 1996, Brit Awards, men in heels
David Bowie at the 1996 Brit Awards.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Leave it to rock ‘n roll to revive the concept of men in heels. By the late 20th century, heels became a staple for rock and funk musicians. David Bowie was among the men of the era to take on the trend. The late musician brought an edgy but masculine take on the style. Other musicians who wore heeled shoes and platform boots include punk rock band the New York Dolls and funk musician Bootsy Collins.

Nicolas Sarkozy, 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy, 2008, heeled boots, men in heels
Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU Economic meeting, 2008.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Politicians who are on the shorter side wear heeled shoes to elevate their height. Among such politicians is the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy who is 5′ 5″. According to media reports, Selfridges, the UK-based department store, noted an increase in the sale of men’s shoes with two-inch heels after Sarkozy was spotted in the style in 2008.

Kanye West -2015

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West Givenchy show, 2015, men in heels, historical
Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West Givenchy show, 2015.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Even today, musicians like Kanye, Harry Styles and Justin Beiber have been spotted in heels. In 2015, Kanye West wore velvet heeled boots to the AW’15 Givenchy show in Paris and the Internet went wild.

Jared Leto, 2018

Jared Leto at the MusiCares Person of the Year Gala, 2018, helmut lang, men in heels
Jared Leto at the MusiCares Person of the Year Gala, 2018.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Jared Leto jumped on the bandwagon by wearing white heeled boots from Helmut Lang at the 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year event.

Vladimir Putin, 2020

Vladimir Putin on his way to greet the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel in Moscow, 2020, men in heels
Vladimir Putin on his way to greet the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel in Moscow, 2020.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

At 5’7″, the president of Russia is another politician who occasionally opts for the heeled-shoe. Putin wore a heeled shoe a few weeks ago to greet the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, on a recent trip to Moscow.

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