A Brief History of High Heeled Shoes and the People Who Wore Them

If you look at high heels for what they are, visually, they are gravity defying objects that look more like they should be on display, than worn on feet. This is especially true for earlier models of the shoes, which were worn by men, and eventually evolved to become a staple in women’s fashion. They were considered a marker for aristocracy during the 17th century, but went out of style for such a long time that it’s almost surprising that they made a comeback around the time of World War II. But who were the people that made these shoes the famous footwear that they have grown to be? Join us as we travel through history and fashion, to observe the iconic shoe and the people who wore them best.


Louis XIV, France

High heeled shoes played a key role during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), who wore red heels and only allowed members of his court to wear red heels as well. To wear high heeled shoes was a sign of aristocracy and exclusivity reserved for only certain members of society.

Statue depicting Louis XIV in Place de la Concorde in Paris, France by Lucian Milasan

Madame Pompadour (Mistress to Louis XIV)

Madame de Pompadour popularized a specific type of heel that later became known as the Pompadour heel (or French heel) which was very difficult to wear. It was characterized by a narrow or curved heel, and pointy toes.

Marie Antoinette

The last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution was known for her commitment to fashion (practically to a detriment), sporting a variety of heels. In 2012, the shoes that she supposedly wore were found on auction for upwards of $60,000.

Pin-up girls

Fast forward to the 20th century and we have pin-up girls wearing chunkier heels tied around the ankle with ribbon. The base of the shoe was a complete 180 from the shoes of the European reign, providing a bit more stability, and elongating the legs of anyone who wore the shoe.

Marilyn Monroe

Print depicting movie star Marilyn Monroe in famous posing is exhibited in Venetian print shop by Lucian Milasan

Heels became a bit more of a modern sex symbol especially after Marilyn Monroe began wearing them more in the 1960s. Apparently she used to shave a quarter inch off one of her stilettos which caused her to walk with a wiggle.


Gemma Howorth

The famous foot model from the UK has been known to spend her days in anything from Jimmy Choos to Louboutins. Little known fact: when she’s not working, to keep her feet feeling good and looking fresh, she wears UGG boots πŸ™‚

Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

There are so many films starring women who make wearing heels look easy, like Julia Roberts does in Pretty Woman. Despite the film’s sexist connotations today, the heels and clothing throughout the film are timeless as ever.

Lady Gaga

Vector illustration of Lady Gaga by Danilo Sanino

Today’s generation of heels know no boundaries when it comes to height, stability, and physical appearance. Pop star Lady Gaga has a similar attitude when it comes to fashion β€” in “Bad Romance” she can be seen wearing various different pairs of Alexander McQueen iconic heels.

Katy Perry

LOS ANGELES – NOV 21: Katy Perry arrives at the 2010 American Music Awards at Nokia Theater on November 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA by Kathy Hutchins

Another pop star who isn’t afraid to wear any type of heel (or outfit) is Katy Perry. Over the years, she’s worn Prada’s flame sandals, fluorescent green Prada pumps, Alberto Guardiani’s lipstick heels, denim heels, and so many more.

Is there a heel that you love more than any other shoe in the world? Or a type of heel you wish existed? Let us know in the comments!

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