The Evolution Of High Heels Is Pretty Cyclical

The concept goes way back.


The origin of high heels goes back centuries, with styles of today serving as little pieces of history — fresh takes inspired by past innovations and trends. Follow the evolution of high-heel shoes, ahead.

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Heeled shoes date back much further, but the closest silhouettes to what’s worn today seem to have appeared in 17th-century Europe. There, heels of several inches were common and often decorated with large embroidered rosettes.Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


In the 18th century, most upper class women’s heels were made out of delicate silks and only intended for indoor use. This necessitated pattens (not pictured) to protect the shoes while navigating the outdoors.Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


Shoes and boots with low heel heights were popular in the 19th century, particularly in the Victorian era.Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images


High heels were back in fashion at this time. From the 1890s, low-heeled footwear that had dominated women’s fashion lost popularity as the higher heel (around three inches) was increasingly favored over the 20-year span.© Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images


Mary Jane and T-strap heels went mainstream and remained popular thereafter, having been worn by the likes of Yvonne De Carlo (’50s) and Mia Farrow (’60s). A modern style reference: Valentino’s Garavani caged pump, which became virtually ubiquitous upon its debut in 2010.© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images


Salvatore Ferragamo was arguably one of the most innovative shoe designers of the 20th century. He’s been credited with crafting the modern wedge shoe in this decade, in the first years of starting his business.Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images


By the start of this decade, boudoir slippers had entered the fashion vernacular and went strong all the way through it. They were often characterized as satin mules to be worn for intimate evenings at home.Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images


Heel offerings became more extensive from this decade but often had a common design element: straps. Stilettos were also popularized, if not completely invented, during this decade, a feat to which many have credited Ferragamo, Roger Vivier, and others.Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images


Sharp silhouettes still ruled supreme through this decade but presented mostly low heel heights.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


While the platform heel dates back to ancient times, its modern rebirth didn’t take place until the late ’60s. The style became a footwear champion of the following decade as the antithesis of the past-favorite, albeit uncomfortable, stiletto.Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


In these years, there was the popular return of pumps in various heel heights. From a design perspective, they were simple, with women sometimes matching them to their outfits.Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images


In a move away from the most straightforward high-heel designs, this decade saw a major juxtaposition of earlier trends, including chunky, platform-based shoes and boots, skinny stiletto shapes, and strap details, to name a few.Ke.Mazur/WireImage

Y2K & Beyond

A mélange of silhouettes have continued to go in and out of style, with some designers having become acclaimed for their signature takes on the high-heel concept (think Manolo Blahnik’s Hangisi heels, made in 2008), intended to withstand the ages.Gotham/GC Images

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