The Brooklyn Museum’s “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe” exhibition explores the origins of high heels worn by women and men across the world since ancient times. Meanwhile, a book that was recently published under the title “Killer Heels” follows the story of high-heeled shoes through various essays and illustrations throughout history, from ancient Greece until modern times.
In ancient Greece, platform sandals called “kothorni” were shoes with high wooden cork soles, worn by actors in order to differentiate the social classes and importance of each character during the play. Later, in ancient Rome, high heels were used to identify prostitutes to potential clients, therefore, high heels became associated with prostitution.
In the Middle East around 1300 BC, people would wear high heels made from wood in the bath so that they would not slip on the wet floor. These wooden platform shoes were called Kabkabs, due to the sound they made when they hit the floor.
During the Middle Ages, both men and women wore “pattens,” wooden soles attached to their shoes in order to keep their fragile and expensive footwear away from street mud. “Chopines,” another form of platform shoes, became popular in Turkey and throughout Europe around the 1400s until the mid-1600s. The shoes were often higher than 30 inches and women who wore them usually used canes or servants to assist them in walking.