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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Deconstructing the platform shoe

The 1970s aside, platforms have lfited the status of both sexes since ancient times. 

These days, high heels and platforms are generally only worn by women, but this was not always the case. Courtesy Harvey Nichols - Dubai
These days, high heels and platforms are generally only worn by women, but this was not always the case. Courtesy Harvey Nichols - Dubai

Platform shoes are enjoying something of a renaissance, which is well deserved given their long and enduring history.

These days, high heels and platforms (hidden or otherwise) are generally only worn by women, but this was not always the case. They first appeared in ancient Greece in 200BC as a raised foot cover called a ‘kothorni’, which lifted the wearer up by 10 centimetres. Worn by actors on the stage, it is believed various heights were used to denote the different classes of those being depicted.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, the appalling states of public streets meant that both men and women wore ‘pattens’ – overshoes that lifted the wearer out of the filth, protecting delicate (and expensive) shoes from the mire.

These evolved into ‘chopines’, which were worn by women of the Venetian court in the 15th century, and grew to preposterous dimensions that added up to 50cm in height. Walking in them required the support of two staff, making them a conspicuous display of wealth and rank.

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In Persia, men had adopted a pronounced heel on their footwear as far back as the 9th century, because it aided in horse riding. By the 16th century, this was copied by envious European nobility, who regarded it as a marker of masculinity and horsemanship.

By the 17th century, womenswear in Europe also started to adopt a raised heel, but just as women warmed to the change in silhouette, men moved away from it.

By the 18th century, men were in flat shoes, while most women’s shoes had a heel. This continued until the 1970s when raised platforms again became the rage for both sexes. Men then reverted to a flat shoe, while women still totter around in platforms to this day.