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Heel appeal: 14 of the best

Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em: heels often cause foot woes, but also let a woman shine the moment she puts on a pair. Although they come in all shapes and styles, high heels are timeless


Some say that the first people to wear heels were Egyptian butchers. Raised soles and heels kept these men (yes, men) from having to trudge through animal blood. That story may be apocryphal, but it is true that men were the first to risk walking in heels. It was their way of showing that they belonged to the nobility: the higher the heels, the higher their position.

The less affluent classes followed suit so that they could put on airs of being equal to the aristocracy. But during the French Revolution in the 18th century all associations with the nobility were scorned and no one was interested in wearing high heels any more. It was not until the early 20th century that the high heel made its comeback, gracing women’s feet again.

In the roaring 20s dresses got shorter, which offered a better view of the shoes worn. But the revival of high-heeled shoes lasted only briefly and heels started inching closer to the ground in the 30s. After the Second World War, Christian Dior caused a downright revolution with his New Look. It featured full, feminine skirts with hemlines below the knee and slim-cut coats. Shoes from Roger Vivier completed the style and featured high heels.

When the miniskirt paid its respects in the 60s, boots with good-sized heels were all the rage. In the decade that followed, men also dared to don shoes that gave them a little extra height. The disco years were a time when platform shoes reigned supreme. The punk movement tried its best to curb the popularity of high heels since, after all, combat boots were the shoes to be seen in. But it did not succeed, as women were definitely swooning for shoes that gave them extra height and more glamour.

It is impossible to imagine the 21st-century fashion scene without high heels. Shoe designers such as Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Nicholas Kirkwood create works of art for our feet. The fashion houses could not survive without the income generated by their shoes. That’s how crazy we are about a great pair of heels. Some of the credit for this goes to the hit series Sex and the City, where it was completely acceptable to spend buckets of cash on beautiful shoes. Whether heels soar to improbable heights or stay at a foot-friendly mid-height, we’ll never stop loving them.

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