16 Jun 2015

Shoes and Tourism : The Curious History of Men in Heels

Submitted by Karen

The mere site of a man in heels is not only met with amazement and disbelief, it is also Toronto’s latest tourist attraction. The Bata shoe museum located in Toronto, Canada is thrilled to announce “standing tall” fashion exhibition set to take place soon.

According to Elizabeth Semmelhack, the senior most curator at Bata museum, when heels made their first debut into the world of fashion around the 17th century, they were adopted first by men. In fact, they continued to wear heels for more than a century as an expression of their power as well as for prestige. Interesting thing is, even as heels dropped from men’s fashion in around the 1730s, there have been pockets of time when heels were reintegrated into the male wardrobe not as a means to challenge masculinity but as a way to proclaim it.

The Curious History of Men wearing heels set for the 8th of may 2015 serves as the official exhibition meant to launch the museum’s 20th year anniversary. Standing tall is expected to challenge the preconceived notion about who should wear heels and why. From high profiled rulers to today’s hyper sexualized rock stars, this fairly provocative exhibition is mainly aimed at exploring the history of men in heels from the early 1600 to present day. In fact, the exhibition will be looking into the meaning and use of heeled footwear particularly in men’s dress over the last four centuries.

As strange as it may sound, there are a few lifestyles which have continued to accept men dressed in heels for instance, the rugged cowboy commonly seen in heeled boots serves as a perfect example. To most men any extra inch on the usual pair of business brogues can be highly destabilizing while at the same time calling their masculinity and fashion intentions into question. However, bearing in mind all the advantages of height which are presently connect to higher pay as well as increased desirability, what most people still can figure out is: why aren’t men wearing heels?

In addition to the above, the museum’s own holding is set to showcase rare examples of men’s heeled footwear dating back from the mid 19th century to the 17th century. Examples will include military boots, the 1930s cowboy boots, the 1940s biker boots etc simply put, visitors are guaranteed a chance to view the 1970s platform worn by Elton john, the 1960s Beatle boot as well as recent heels featured in the haute couture collection.

Fascinating and thought-provoking at the same time, Standing Tall: The Curious history of men wearing heels is set to be on display right until June 2016.  If you are at tourist in Tortonto, or just visiting, pay a visit to the Bata shoe museum to see this rare exhibit.

Sources [1, 2]