Friday, 20 September 2013

High and Mighty on Heels - Men's Shoes

Originally, high heels were made for men and was especially popular at the court of Louis XIV who himself adored the style. He actually had a special type of high heels named after him (the Louis heel) which concave on the heel itself to create an elegant curve. And since Louis loved extravagance his heels were the best of the best. Often towering over five inches above the ground the heels themselves were often decorated with detailed battle scenes! The King made it clear to his court that he was to have the highest heels and no one could wear any as much as a millimetre taller than his.
Red heels were considered especially attractive and Louis XIV quickly made his mark here too. It was only the King himself and those who were in high standing with him who were allowed to wear red heels. One of the reasons for why red was so special was that it was very expensive to colour something that perfect red tone - thus red heels became a symbol of prestige. However, the King's fondness of high heels were not because he was particularly short. On the contrary Louis XIV was considered slightly taller than average height with his 1 meter and 75 centimetres (5,9 inches).

All kind of materials were used for the shoes for example silk, brightly coloured leather and brocades. One thing that remained constant through Louis XIV and Louis XV's reigns was the dominating large buckles on men's shoes. These were either silver or gold and could be very intricately decorated. It was very common to use gemstones - both genuine and look-a likes - to decorate the buckles further. Such a look-a like could be rhinestones which (as the name indicates) were brought to Paris from the Rhine and was a kind of crystals. Paste was also used for decorations despite that we would never consider it very extravagant. However, at the time it was considered just as beautiful because the paste jewels would sparkle especially much when hit by light - also they could be fashioned in all kind of shapes. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on 22 January 1660: "This day I began to put buckles on my shoes." The buckles were considered important enough to be sold separate from the shoe itself - the idea was that the buckle was to be used for more than one pair of shoes. Normally buckles would be delivered in special caskets, just like jewellery! It was in the 1720's that the buckles became larger than normally and their period of glory would be between 1760-1780.

Close-up of Louis XIV in his state robes - notice the red heels!

Shoe buckles, late 18th century, French, metal, rhinestone
Made in France in the latter part of the 18th century

No comments:

Post a Comment