A Brief History of Men In Heels

Terry O'Neill/Getty; Rad Hourani; Amy Dickerson/Redux; Slaven Vlasic/Getty

Terry O'Neill/Getty; Rad Hourani; Amy Dickerson/Redux; Slaven Vlasic/Getty

Man Heels: A Short History

Men have worn heels for centuries. Louis XIV was known to favor elaborately embellished styles that were even topped with bows. Rockers like David Bowie and Prince embraced the style in the 1980s,  and Tom Cruise and Nicolas Sarkozy wore heels for a little added height. From French royalty to celebrity lifts, see a brief history of men in heels.

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Louis XIV

The 17th century French ruler was famous for his heels. According to the Museum at FIT’s Patricia Mears, he was even “a very accomplished ballet dancer and would dance in high heels.” Louis XIV’s red heels and soles even prompted Christian Louboutin to apply the signature to his own designs.

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David Bowie

Perhaps no one epitomized 70s British glam rock better than David Bowie. The singer and his Ziggy Stardust alter-ego were rabid heel evangelists, often wearing them onstage and in music videos. His style is so legendary that it’s being currently being celebrated with a retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

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Elton John

Sir Elton John’s lively flamboyance carried over to the singer’s own wardrobe. Before his Versace obsession fully developed, John indulged in the Seventies’ trend for high-heeled wooden clogs, which he paired, at left, with a mélange of white jumpsuits.

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Rocky Horror Picture Show

Eighties cult film Rocky Horror Picture Show spawned generations of cross-dressing performers. A still from the 1986 film (at far left) depicts actor Tim Curry dressed as transvestite Frank N Furter. His exaggerated cabaret heels and fishnets set the style tone for Eighties cross-dressers worldwide.

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‘Voguing’

When the ‘Voguing’ dance craze hit New York in the Eighties, it spurred a movement of men in heels. At left, Voguing champion Modavia Elite models in a 1991 Legacy Voguing Ball at New York’s Union Square Club. He and his colleague’s flamboyant style famously inspired Madonna’s legendary 1990 hit song “Vogue.”

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Celebrities with Taller Wives

Tom Cruise has reportedly employed the help of block heels and lifts to extend his stature when preening next to estranged wife, Katie Holmes.

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Cowboy Boots

Call them the conservative man’s high heel. However taboo men’s heels may be, that hasn’t stopped rancheros in many American red states from gaining a little leg length with cowboy boots. The style has transitioned from a utilitarian piece of clothing to more of a representative fashion statement. Women have adopted the style too, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss. French designer Isabel Marant has even designed her own version for a fall 2012 Western-themed collection.

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Prince

Prince’s high heel affinity did not end with the 20th century. The musician is still performing in glittering heels like this image from his 2011 Madison Square Garden concert (at near left). But as someone who clocks in at 5’2’’ tall, you can’t blame him for seeking a little added height.

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Adam Lambert

American Idol alum Adam Lambert has broken the reality TV star mold with the release of a successful album. But his signature style has also turned heads. Lambert’s known to take a page from 80s rock star greats, which he mixes with Goth influence, for a look that includes lots of eye makeup, metallic sheen, and yes -- heels.

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Nicolas Sarkozy

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was often teased for his comparatively short stature relative to that of his supermodel wife, Carla Bruni. In order to close the gap, Bruni often wore ballet flats (most often by Christian Dior), while her husband  favored Cuban-heeled loafers to provide a little lift at diplomatic events.

Getty, Rad Hourani, AP

Rad Hourani

Paris-based designer Rad Hourani has broken the fashion mold by presenting solely unisex collections with runway shows featuring both male and female models. Part of his signature equation are heeled boots, first introduced in 2007, that have spurred a ‘meels’ movement amongst fashionable hipsters. Of his decision to design unisex heels, Hourani told The Daily Beast: “For me, I don’t understand who decides a heel is for a woman and not a man. I find that they have the same effect on both, they make them look longer and more lean.”