Think of men wearing high heels and you might evoke the era of glam rock, height conscious Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr adding a few inches on the red carpet via stacked shoes, or an awkward moment your auntie and uncle now never speak about.
But thanks to Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, currently running an exhibition entitled Standing Tall, people are now being reminded that the high heel was actually first made popular by men.
Originally designed as riding shoes for Persian soldiers, these heels were taken from the battlefield and worn by men for daily life throughout Western Asia, right up until Persian culture boomed in Europe and the heel became something virile, masculine and a talking point for the ruling classes.
“When heels were introduced into fashion at the turn of the 17th century, men were the first to adopt them and they continued wearing heels as expressions of power and prestige for over 130 years,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum.
“Even after they fell from men’s fashion in the 1730s, there were pockets of time when heels were reintegrated into the male wardrobe not as a way of challenging masculinity but rather as a means of proclaiming it”.
Not least by French ruler Louis XIV. Accentuating his 5’4 height with a pair of his own lofty red clogs, incrusted with depictions of battle scenes and giving him a boost of 10cm, the king proved he really was the Carrie Bradshaw of his day by issuing a rule that only members of his court were allowed to wear red heels.
So, you probably wonder, how did women become the foremost wearers of this sloped shoe? Around the same time men in power were sporting them for machoism, another fashion trend saw women adopt elements of male style, including this one, and the first incarnation of the female high heel duly followed.
So, if not for this androgynous twist of fate, is it too outlandish to think the concept of men wearing stilettos could be the norm today? Burly drunken blokes holding pointed footwear aloft while marching barefoot into kebab houses while the flatfooted fairer sex look on incredulously? David Cameron scoffing at Jeremy Corbyn’s market bought heels while flaunting a pair Samantha bought him from Jimmy Choo?
With London Collections Mens on the way, who knows, it could happen. Whatever the answer, it's fair to say we may have dodged a bullet in this great evolution of footwear.