7 Pairs Of Shoes That Have Made History — From Men's High Heels To Dorothy's Ruby Red Slippers
The human race has been wearing shoes for a long time, so it's no surprise that the designs for shoes throughout history have been as tame as a pair of moccasins and as wild and wacky as Alexander McQueen's armadillo shoes.
Although there are some common and usually derogatory stereotypes out there surrounding people who just can't get enough pairs of shoes (not to be mistaken as a purely "female" phenomenon — my younger brother was much more fascinated by shoes, and still is, than I ever was), people's love for this part of fashion shouldn't be discarded as a random obsession or trivial shallowness.
When you think about it, the sheer number of types of shoes and their varying styles throughout the history of civilized existence is astonishing. And when you consider how shoes have often been a status symbol within the social classes of cultures, it's no wonder so many people have sought after gaining possession of a particular type of shoe.
A new exhibition that explores the history and our obsession with shoes at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which opened last weekend, got me thinking about some famous footwear both in distant and recent history and the styles' impact on society.
So take a look at seven intriguing pairs of shoes — some bizarre and some functional — that have gone down in history.
1. Men's High Heels
As pictured, France's King Louis XIV's favorite type of shoe became all the rage in the 1700s and ushered in these type of heels for men as opposed to riding boots. History shows us that men in many different cultures wore high heels throughout the ages. It'd be interesting to see a men's high heel come back into the mainstream, and it's certainly possible, as history (and fashions) tend to repeat themselves.
2. Heelless Shoes
First debuting on an Antonio Berardi runway in 2007 and made popular by none other than Victoria Beckham the following year, heelless shoes (or gravity shoes) have also been seen on the likes of Lady Gaga. But other daring fashionistas are trying the look as well. Though they seem almost impossible to walk in at first glance, they are apparently perfectly easy to balance in, according to the English Italian designer himself.
Seemingly the historical forerunner of the heelless shoe, these Chopines were worn by Venetian women in the early 16th century, mostly as a status symbol to elevate their height as they walked around the city. But there was one functional use for them: The shoes kept the ladies' feet far away from roughly paved and wet, muddy streets.
4. Dorothy's Ruby Slippers
It's possible these shoes are the most iconic pair of shoes in all of movie history. They've been reproduced for little girls ever since The Wizard of Oz first debuted in 1939, and I remember even my friend as a child had her very own pair. Who knows how many girls have clicked their heels together chanting, "There's no place like home," in their games of make-believe?
5. Converse All-Stars
I don't think I know a single person who doesn't know what Converse shoes are. They've been a staple in many people's closest since the '70s when they were dubbed "Chuck Taylors" after the famous basketball player. But you might not realize that the sneaks have actually been around since 1917.
6. Armadillo Shoes
These unique and bizarre shoes made a splash in the fashion world in 2010 by British designer Alexander McQueen. They are 10-inches from the ground and have probably come into the mainstream since Lady Gaga wore them in her "Bad Romance" music video.
The designer, when asked about his incredible shoe, told The New York Times : “The world needs fantasy, not reality. We have enough reality today.” Well, they certainly are fantastical!
7. Mary Janes
Mary Janes come in a variety of styles and colors, but their basic strap across the top of the foot is what sets them apart from other shoes. They've been around for over 100 years, but they were most recently on trend in the early '90s (which pretty much makes them on trend at the moment, too, since '90s fashion is everywhere right now). Think Cher in Clueless donning a super cute pair of Mary Janes with her mini skirts.