L
ast Sunday, I was with my son Lukas at the Carousel in Dumbo on the East River. Partially covered, very well kept, and all rides are accompanied by a recorded music band that kids love! It was only when I was in line for the 3rd ride, waiting to get the “special horse” that goes “up and down” (Lukas’s favorite), that I noticed this sign:

 

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Mainly in the last couple of years, because of this project I’m working on that focuses on women’s feet, I’m very much “high heel sensitive”. I notice everything that is high heel related in any possible environment. Also here, at the carousel with chariots, horses and a very special view of my dream city…. High heels are called to attention!

 

A lot of things went through my mind:

“How come! – heels are perfect to ride horses”…

“They do terrible damage to who? The wearer or the fake horses?”…

“Well they basically force high heels wearers to some barefoot time so at the end… whatever is the reason… it’s a good thing!”

The more I was trying to figure out, the more I started smiling… thinking of how many women must have fallen off those horses, to have the owner decide to post that sign! At least this must be the only possible logical reason I can think of!

 

Lets go back to school and review some history to learn something interesting that relates horses, heels and…. men! Interestingly and funny enough, if you go back a couple of centuries, high heels were introduced in men’s wardrobes because they were functional to riding horses better!

 

The truth is that women were not the first ones wearing high heels shoes, men were: aristocratic European men. By 1500 the technology was available to make a stack leather set back heel and a stiff leather arch. The high heels that men were wearing at that time, came from the Persian riding boots. The men were riding and needing the high heel to keep their feet in the stirrups. The “rider’s heel” was initially 1 to 1-½ inches high and resembled the modern riding boot and cowboy boot. These shoes were functional to men but were also very much about status wealth and leisure!

 

Louis XIV, king of France in the second half of the 17th century transformed court dresses and heeled shoes into a socio-political tool. Only certain aristocrats that had access at his court in Versailles were allowed to wear shoes with Red Heels, turning this kind of shoes into a political privilege. At his court, wearing Red heels was like sitting at the popular kids table in school–only the very coolest kids could wear them. This kind of shoe would survive and leave a mark in history not only for its color, but also for the characteristic heel shape known as the “Louis Heel”.

 

Why red? The legend says that a group of noble men returned to Versailles after a night of debauchery in Paris: they had been walking around drunk and happen to go to the slaughter district. The animal blood in the ground soaked up into the heels and the red heel style was born.

 

Later in the centuries, we find another example of men in heels with cowboys of course. More recently, in the 70’s, we find a particular kind of heels, the one mostly worn by Rockstars. Here the concept of masculinity is reinforced by a thick and heavy heel like Louis XIV.

 

Once again history repeats. The old becomes new, and old again, but not when it comes to carousel horses!

 

Have you run into funny announcements like this one regarding high heels? Where? What did they say?