It is a truth universally acknowledged, that stiletto heels remain the stuff of dreams for women and men alike. As stilettos celebrate their 110th anniversary, here’s a short history of this famed footwear — from fashion splurges to fetish items.
Although slender high heels had been worn by French courtiers as early as late 19th century, it was shoemaker Andre Perugia who is widely credited with designing the first ‘stilettos’, named after a long, thin dagger, in 1906.
Stilettos have enjoyed a surge in popularity in the 1950s, especially those created by French designer Roger Vivier for a fellow fashion designer Christian Dior. Vivier’s opulent shoe creations became known as ‘the Fabérgé of Footwear’. He also experimented with other heel shapes, notably the ‘comma’ heel (talon virgule).
One of Vivier’s apprentices was the King of Red Soles himself, Christian Louboutin. His fire-engine-red-bottomed Louboutins are arguably the most recognizable and prestigious women’s shoes on the planet today. They have been worn not only by royalty and celebrities, but also millions of women who aspire to that Parisian touch of sensuality and glamour. Louboutins have even inspired popular music – from J-Lo’s eponymous record to the latest Russian sensation, a music video about a hapless young woman hoping to lure her would-be husband with a pair of fake Louboutins.
Other notable shoe-designers that emerged at the turn of the 21st century were Spaniard Manolo Blahnik and Malaysian-born Jimmy Choo. Each has become iconoclast; with shoes themselves being referred to simply as ‘Manolos’ and ‘Choos’. Carrie Bradshaw, the lead character in romantic sitcom Sex and the City with a penchant for expensive designer shoes, famously yelled out to her girlfriends while running to catch the Staten Island Ferry: “Wait! I lost my Choo!”.
Having conquered women’s feet more than a century ago, stilettos show no sign of slowing down. But what I long to see is a new generation of genuinely green stilettos taking the world by storm. Last September, Italian luxury footwear brand Sergio Rossi collaborated with Livia Firth’s Eco-Age in creating a Green Carpet Collection of sustainable – and highly covetable – shoes. But such examples are still few and far between.
As Christian Louboutin once said, ‘Stiletto is a feminine weapon that men just don’t have’. Use it wisely, Ladies!