How High Heels Made It Into Menswear

March 2017Words by Mr Alfred Tong

What do the rock star, cowboy, king, politician and soldier have in common? They have, for very different reasons, all been known to wear high(er) heels. And if Balenciaga, Gucci, Acne Studios and Saint Laurent have their way this spring, you, too, might be standing in front of a mirror wondering, “Can I? Should I?”

Let’s start by saying that the idea of heels for men is not a complete bolt out of the blue. On the contrary, stacked footwear has plenty of historical precedent. For the cowboys and cavalrymen of yesteryear, heeled boots and stirrups were needed for maintaining balance on the back of a horse, and so they became synonymous with masculinity. In the 17th century, King Charles I wore heels to compensate for his short and physically weak 5ft 3in frame. But where he led, other nobleman followed, and so high heels became associated with class, power and decadence during his reign.

In the 20th century, you had rock stars from The Beatles through to Mr David Bowie, the New York Dolls and Prince wearing heeled shoes and boots as gender-bending provocation. And in 2017, it’s being taken further. Balenciaga is doing platform disco boots as a deliberately awkward non-sequitur within its skewed tailoring. Gucci is resurrecting the 1970s, and bringing flamboyant, glam rock-inspired footwear back in the process. Acne Studios’ Iggy boot (presumably named after Mr Iggy Pop), channels the sleazy glamour of New York’s downtown punk scene of the 1970s.