Image: Maison Margiela
High heels have been largely considered as a woman’s style for the previous three centuries. Adding a few inches to a woman’s height is frequently regarded the key to putting an ensemble together, and can be seen everywhere from runways to regular work clothes. They’re popular due to their leg-lengthening properties, high-fashion connotations, and overall elegance. However, as designers continue to mix male and femininity, the gendered borders surrounding clothes and accessories have softened. The raised shoe is becoming increasingly popular among males. Their decision to wear footwear that has become an iconic representation of feminine fashion has been dubbed “ground-breaking” or “gender bending.” But interestingly enough, the invention of high heels began exclusively for guys.
The first documented heel type dates back to the 15th century, when Persian soldiers used heeled boots to assist keep their feet in stirrups while riding horses. Then, in the 17th century, King Louis XIV donned red heels to symbolize his supremacy and issued an edict prohibiting aristocracy from wearing heels. Heels were worn by males as a sign of rank, power, and military success until the late 1700s, when they went out of favor – and were mostly worn by women.
The Chelsea Boots
Image: The Rake
The heel was not reintroduced into menswear until the 1960s, when the Beatles popularized “Beatle Boots,” an early variant of Chelsea boots. The boots are unquestionably stylish and contemporary, with an inverted, circular heel known as the Cuban heel. The modest lift gives even the most basic pair of jeans or suits a sleek, modern feel; it made a resurgence in 2010 and is now a hallmark of labels such as Gucci and Saint Laurent.
Image: Luka Sabbat
Furthermore, the Chelsea boot has become a go-to for some of the most prolific well-dressed male celebs, with Harry Styles, Luka Sabbat, and Kanye West following in the footsteps of Mick Jagger and Prince. It has grown in popularity to the point that brands have included it in their male designs, ultimately penetrating the streetwear scene.
Some of the most well-considered premium sneakers now add an extra inch, Cuban heels are being embraced by an increasing number of labels, and then there’s the new wave of ankle boots, with height comparable to a woman’s high heel. Maison Margiela, whose heeled Tabi boots have recently gained prominence, is at the forefront of the trend. Random Identities‘ Vibram sole version and Gucci’s much more rock’n’roll offering, which has emerged at some of our favorite luxury boutiques dressed in all-over GG Supreme logo print and brilliant red patent leather, are two more fashion house variations of this very high boot.
Heavy-duty lug-soles, which initially appeared in January of last year, are still popular among the streetwear set. We see heeled boots parading down both the runway and the sidewalk, thanks to Off-White, Bottega Veneta, and, of course, Dr.Martens.
Balenciaga, a French luxury label, presently sells a boot called the Bulldozer. Its noisy fang-like treads lift the user several inches off the ground. Similarly, Bottega Veneta sells the Tire Boot, a heeled Chelsea boot with a massive sole. Even Moncler has released a line of frightening rubber boots that add an inch or two to the wearer’s height. Men’s fashion is experiencing a tremendous rebirth of the heeled boot in the streetwear scene. It is a wardrobe and runway classic since it is practical, manly, and eye-catching. “People who buy prestige footwear want to be recognized,” said Bruce Pask, Neiman Marcus’ men’s fashion director. “We’ve been focusing on having more statement-making footwear.” That entails creating larger, taller, and thicker shoes.”
Elevated shoes are also making a reappearance in the streetwear scene. “After a long run at the top of the leaderboard, normcore dad shoes are giving way to cooler, platforms,” stated Taylor Tomasi Hill, Creative Director at THE YES. Alexander McQueen‘s Chunky Sole Sneakers, for example, transforms the conventional shoe appearance into one that shouts loud and bold.
Image: David Bowie
Bowie and his stage character, Ziggy Stardust, drifted away from the low Cuban heels of the 1970s and toward daring platforms, stilettos, or generally higher heels — all of which were, at the time, synonymous with women’s design. While subcultures such as drag queen societies and ballroom culture had already normalised males wearing heels and other conventionally feminine apparel at the time, Bowie’s appearance was the first to bring gender disruptive fashion to the mainstream.
Brands like Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs, and Brooklyn-based footwear designer Syro are already embracing the dizzying heels. They’re a living testament of how the fashion industry is turning towards inclusivity and genderless fashion, with styles ranging from Rick Owen’s renowned Grilled platforms to Rombaut’s sneakers-inspired stilettos. “Every part of my existence feels perfect as I swagger down the street in my heels.” Syro co-founder Shaobo Han remarked. “Wearing heels helps me to connect with and appreciate my femininity while also pushing the boundaries of fashion.” I don’t believe heels should be gendered; they belong to everyone.”
Image: Wisdom Kaye
Platform heels are extremely popular among fashion influencers. Wisdom Kaye, a stylist and fashion content producer, is no stranger to a bold appearance, and his Rick Owens have become a mainstay in his self-expression. Whether he’s wearing a Thom Browne skirt or channeling his David Bowie-esque energy, rejecting gender stereotypes with clothing has lead him to his own aesthetic, which has amassed over 10 million social media followers.
Similar to the declassification of heels as a “woman’s” shoe, the declassification of heels as a “woman’s” shoe continues to develop as clothing becomes less related to one’s gender identification and sexuality. There’s no reason why guys shouldn’t have a lovely pair of heels to go with their dresses on red carpets and magazine covers.