Origins of the Heel

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#101 Post by elizabeth » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:34 pm

Hi Francis,

Yes, I just tried the links and I see the problem---aggravating. If you paste this 1933,0610.12.35 into the search box in research the Hungarian commander will come up. If you want to see all of the Monogrammist SK's work I guess what you need to go to research---then in search pick drawing---then pick advanced search---then in free text put in Monogrammist SK and pick the years 1591 -1593 AD ---enter and then you should see them. Sorry about that but the images are very interesting! Let me know if that works.

Elizabeth

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#102 Post by amuckart » Mon Aug 23, 2010 12:56 am

Elizabeth, sorry I haven't responded sooner. I have just started a new job in a new city and things have been... busy.

You're right, I did misunderstand your posting, for which I apologize. I hope the content of my posting is useful to the discussion nonetheless.

Francis, you've done far more research on heeled/built-up footwear than I have. To be honest I don't recall Goubitz's wisdom on the origin of the shank other than having a vague recollection that it was a relatively late invention compared to heels themselves.

Al, the role of the breast of wooden heels makes a lot of sense in the context of shanks, which I'd never really thought about (probably because I haven't gotten around to trying a pair like that yet).

I was just having a conversation with my SCA Laurel (the person to whom I'm apprenticed in the medieval recreation we do) who is a great practitioner of late 16th century Italian dance and she mentioned this text from a dance manual:
[center]CAPRIOL[/center]
The Poles, so I have heard said, invariably walk on their toes,
[center]ARBEAU[/center]
Their heels are raised and supported by the cork and iron placed in their shoes, which prevents them from running as easily as we do. That is why the Poles give the appearance of being to or three fingers taller than they are.

That is from Orchesography by Thoinot Arbeau, Translated by Mary Stewart Evans. Dover Publications, New York.

Here is a transcription of the French and a facsimile of the manuscript at the Library of Congress

I found the mention of "cork and iron placed in their shoes" rather intriguing, though I have no idea what role the iron serves if not as a shank of some sort.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#103 Post by elizabeth » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:30 am

Hi Alasdair,

Sounds like you have been quite busy! The text from the Orchesography dated 1589 is quite interesting and provides further evidence for my theory that heels were worn in the "Near East" before they were embraced in Western fashion. The metal mentioned may have been like the metal pieces found on many Persian heeled shoes. See link below.

http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/podcasts/oap6/index.shtml

I don't know about the use of cork but I am going to have this pair of shoes x-rayed soon so that I can see how they were made.

Elizabeth

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#104 Post by goatman » Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:14 pm

My son just read this in a book, can anyone tell me how accurate it is?

"When high heels were invented in France in 1590, they were worn by men, who used them to assume a position of power over other men,
Men soon found that dominance was difficult to maintain when you were falling down after every other step.
So high heels were passed on to women, where they became a symbol of sexual subservience. Upper-class women wore heels to demonstrate that they were too rich to have to move.
During the French Revolution, women abandoned their heels as elitist. In a counterrevolutionary gesture, ballerinas started dancing on their toes to simulate high heels." - The Stupid History of the Human Race by Bob Fenster

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#105 Post by dearbone » Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:05 am

Jim,

one thing is for certain,The French neither invented the high heel nor the platform/pedestal,Being so fashion aware, They imported them,The heel been around before France was a country,There are Persian miniature sculptures boots with heels on them from 300 BC at the Bata museum.

Nasser

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#106 Post by dw » Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:51 am

It's kind of sad...where are the historians?

I am not an historian but I know a few (nice folks mostly). And I have talked to them extensively about this very subject.

While I agree with Nasser that it is doubtful that the French invented the heel; and I suspect all the rest is just what the book says it is--"Stupid History"; nevertheless I think that the evidence for Persian heels before the late 1500's is less than convincing.

As I understand it, the Persians often attached a horn to the base of the ordinary heelless shoe for the specific purpose of riding. The horn prevented the foot from sliding too far into the stirrup. But the horns were never used for walking around in. If you examine plates depicting this implementation, you can see why. It would have been far more unstable and awkward than the worst of contemporary women's shoes.

Several people here and elsewhere have made exhaustive studies of this (Dame June Swann may be the foremost of these) and as far as I know there is zero hard evidence of an actual heel...defined and used as we understand a heel to be used...prior to the middle to third quarter of the 16th century.

Historians see this all the time. Claims of ancient authenticity but without evidence. The kilt is another example...Braveheart notwithstanding. No real evidence of Scottish kilts before the late 16th century.

The watchword for all of this is "if there are no photos (evidence), it didn't happen."

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#107 Post by dearbone » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:44 pm

I think Elizabeth Semmelhack essay on July.07.2010 above may shed more light on the origin of the heel.

Ha,The bag pipe i also heard arrived/pick up around the 1600 in Scotland, In 1929 they unearth at UR(southern Iraq) reed pipes 5000 years old,they referred to them as "Silver pipes of Ur",the instrument of Sheppards,they were made without the skin/bag,there was an old connection between the Celtic people of Europe with the power centers of the new east and the Mediterraneans and goes back before roman time.

Nasser

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#108 Post by dw » Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:15 pm

Nasser,

This is an endless debate--Ouroboros. With one side engaging in research and the other in speculation.

The problem is that anything and everything is possible but not all that much of that is probable. Did they have heels in Atlantis? Or Hyperborea?

And from there you get Renaissance Faires with tattooed warrior damsels in gossamer. And medieval knights in jackboots and wrist watches.

And the upshot of all of that is that none of us really know our true histories...which are all that much more exciting and moving for having happened to real people just like you and I. It gets all mixed up with Conan and Cthulhu.

Ask the average person on the street who Joshua Chamberlain was...or Black jack Pershing or Eli Whitney or Anton van Leeuwenhoek or even Jonas Salk or Marie Curie. And 99% of them won't even get close with a guess. They all know who Harry potter is or Xena Warrior Princess but not Boadicea--the real warrior princess.

History is not speculation--it is a real scientific discipline founded on hard evidence. In the absence of such I'll keep an open mind (as all scientists should) but I, personally, am not buying.

That's what I've learned from rubbing elbows with historians...the creatures.

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(Message edited by dw on April 30, 2011)

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#109 Post by dearbone » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:04 pm

why worry about history when you are busy making itImagesaid Carl Rove,as for my speculations,they can be taken to any reputable historical society for verification and they are solid gold.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#110 Post by dw » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:17 pm

Nasser,

I meant no offense Nasser, I was just ranting about the the current state of affairs in contemporary society.

Nevertheless, and having said that...while I wouldn't want to speak for someone else or even possibly misrepresent their work, June Swann is widely considered one of the foremost...if not the foremost...authorities on shoes and shoe history in the world. And it is her position, if I understand correctly, that after looking at the all the available evidence from the objective point of view of a researcher, that there is no credible evidence that heels on shoes predate the late 16th century. Anywhere.

I wouldn't gainsay her or her reputation.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#111 Post by goatman » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:53 pm

Thanks guys, didn't mean to cause any hullabaloo ..... the thought of the French being the "inventors" of high heels reminded me of the cold war .... you know, Nikita taking his shoe off at the UN and pounding it on the podium ..... it seemed that the USSR was the inventor of everything that was/became famous during that and preceding years ...... I just took it funny that one country would take credit for something, when/if it even happened, it was probably a cordwainer who was trying to gain a rep with a nobleman or his consort who actually 'invented' the high heels, regardless of the country in which they were first seen!

I had been doing some reading on the archives and on the Internet concerning the various shoes thru the centuries, and was seeing some of the shoes like Marc Carlson shows above in this thread, so I really couldn't imagine that the High Heels were taking an entire country by storm, and Marc not showing it in some of his research on shoes/boots of the Middle Ages! Hence the question of historical accuracy - - with the hopes that one of the historical researchers like Marc would accidentally see it <|;^) ! But, that said, you both filled in admirably well! Congrats, you're both elevated to assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant - - - historians lol.

P.S. If you look at the left-hand pic of the coat-of-arms above, that shoe has a 'heel' on it .... I wonder what century it was from?



(Message edited by goatman on April 30, 2011)

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#112 Post by dearbone » Sat Apr 30, 2011 5:31 pm

DW,

No offense was taken and no particular historian knows it all,they can be superseded,they also can get their head stuck in the you know whatImage

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#113 Post by dearbone » Sat Apr 30, 2011 5:38 pm

The little Northampton museum collection is noting near the massive Bata collection.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#114 Post by neil1967 » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:12 pm

Though it is June Swann's opinion that there were no heels anywhere before the 16th century, Elizabeth Semmelhack, another learned source, suggests otherwise above.

Neil

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#115 Post by dw » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:19 pm

Nasser,

Good. Thank you for that.

I'm just concerned that we don't follow the rest of the Internet and become just one more source of misinformation. Perpetuating myths for which there is only hearsay and speculation in support or, at best, tenuous and perhaps misinterpreted evidence.

Again, you find people all over the net positing theories as if they were fact. And offering illustrations from old texts and headstones, etc., which, because the individuals involved don't really understand what they are looking at, become proof positive in their eyes.

The leine--a linen over-tunic dating to pre-Christian times--is a good example. If you look at the rather stylized drawings of the time you can almost see pleats. And it was often worn knee length. Ipso facto the kilt now comes to Scotland in the 5th century.

The real problem there is the people coming to that conclusion don't understand, in depth, the culture and the traditions and even the clothing of the period. So they see a carving or a woodcut and they interpret what they are seeing. And, in their eyes, their conclusions become indisputable fact. As Carl Rove is reputed to have said .."why worry about history when you can make it up."(sic) Image It's the paradigm of the age.

The shoe on the coat of arms, mentioned above, does not appear to me to have a true heel on it. It may be a stylization; it may be a metal cleat (there appears to be one under the ball as well); or it may just be a function of the way the shoe is made. We don't know the context. Not being an historian...and immersed in the historical techniques...I'd be hard pressed to call that a heel unless I could not only see some remnant of such a shoe but understand how it was made and then used.

If I had my druthers, I would wish that the Crispin Colloquy had a reputation ...on the Internet, among serious scholars, among dedicated shoe and bootmakers (and even historians)...as a serious place where the unproven is given no more cachet than any mode of interpretation or speculation deserves.

In fact, not being steeped in the context or the culture, not having access to or having done the research myself...I would openly wish it known that my opinion in this whole matter "isn't worth the paper it's written on." It too is speculation.

And not any more admirable for its source.

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(Message edited by dw on April 30, 2011)

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#116 Post by dearbone » Sun May 01, 2011 8:40 am

DW,

I am afraid i don't share your concern about the CC become a source of misinformation,not under your watchful eyes,it was speculated that not even a Canada goose can fly south without you knowingImage.

A little of topic,Here is set of great history books for those of you interested in the subject, if you can find a set,most likely you can,since very few people read history nowdays, by B. G. NIEBUHR. on European history from it's foundation.
ROMAN HISTORY;
ANCIENT HISTORY,INCLUDING THE HISTORY OF GREECE;
ANCIENT ETHNOGRAPHY AND GEOGRAPHY.

translated and edited by
DR. LEONHARD SCHMITZ, F.R.S.E;
Rector of the high school of Edinburgh.
London: walton and Maberly, 1852-53.
13633.jpg

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#117 Post by das » Thu May 05, 2011 5:12 am

Jim,

In short, "not very accurate". Current opinion is there was no single source for "heels", and several types seem to come from various origins/regions. Not all early heels were outrageously high either. Safe to say the French did not have heels before any other western Europeans, but around 1590 is the date when heels became common in western European fashions for men and women. Men's shoe heels did not come down to current mode (+/- 5/8&#34Image until c.1760s--prior to that men and women sported what we might see as "high" heels. Yes, women retained higher heels longer than men, but I see plenty of them today, rich and poor alike, stalking along in 3"-4"+ stilettos, so they obviously don't preclude walking (after a fashion). The French Revolution did interrupt the heel, as well as the shoe buckle--too Bourgeois they seemed--but the fashion tide was turning back to Neo Classical looks anyway.

Bob Fenster was trying to tell a cute story--not write a scholarly history I fear, and just got it twisted. I wonder how many other myths he promoted? Image

Not sure what DW meant by "horns" for heels. The Persian "hook" heels (our term) were not made from horn.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#118 Post by dw » Thu May 05, 2011 5:42 am

Not sure what DW meant by "horns" for heels. The Persian "hook" heels (our term) were not made from horn.


^ +1...what he said.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#119 Post by goatman » Thu May 05, 2011 7:24 pm

THX, and a tip 'o the hat to ye </:^)

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#120 Post by piper » Thu May 05, 2011 8:33 pm

What I would rather know is when did a heel on a shoe become something that a shoemaker or shoe repairer would insist I NEED. I brought some sandals in once and asked if the quarter inch heel could be removed and they insisted it would render the sandals unwearable. The sandals are nothing more than a flat piece of leather with straps. So I did it myself. I make all my shoes perfectly flat because no one else will. I like them that way. So, when did flat shoes become something shoemakers could no longer make? When did heels go from fashion to mandatory?

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#121 Post by elfn » Thu May 05, 2011 8:53 pm

I really prefer a totally flat shoe as well. I need support on the outside of the foot just in front of the heel. With a heeled shoe, I never have quite the support I need to keep my knee and hips happy. Given my comfort with a totally heelless shoe, I've taken a bit of the attitude that if God had meant for us to walk with out weight shifted toward our forefoot, he'd had provided us with heels. Having said that, heels are perfectly understandable if they're going to keep your foot from running through the stirrup. They just don't make a lot of sense once the foot hits the ground.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#122 Post by das » Fri May 06, 2011 4:05 am

Diane,

If a shoe or boot is made on a last with a bottom curved to have a heel under it, removing the heel entirely from that footwear will result in the toes pointing upward, and the sensation of walking "uphill". Now I can't quite see a sandal w/ a 1/4" heel doing this, but not knowing the sandal in question there might have been some other reason. If you want "flats" it's best to buy them, rather than pop the heels off of something made with heels.

In brief: roughly 10,000 BCE through c.1600, you're safe--no heels exist (except elevated Medieval "patten" over-shoes). During the rather unisex era of 1550-1620 you could still go heel-less, or with very low wedge heels. I'd say in Europe, after 1625, you'd be hard pressed to find women's outdoor footwear (indoor slippers are the exception) with zero heel until.... The "Grecian" look and its neo-classical "sandals", like heel-less ballet shoes after c.1800, then knock-on heels creep back in by 1850s-60s.

Thing about this supposed "tyranny" of the heel on women's shoes and blaming shoemakers, bothers me a little historically speaking. Heels were an "exotic" novelty when they first appear. High, low, in between, they presented headaches for the shoemaker to make them (witness the chaotic heel-seat constructions c.1580-1680, until things finally settled down). Shoemakers make what will, 1) sell well, or 2) they are asked to make. The fashion-driver here is not the shoemaker, except in so much as he is copying a popular style. Today it's designers, Hollywood and TV, e.g. 'Sex and the City' . In former days it was what fad/fashion the kings, queens, nobles and elites sported and how closely you could emulate that--it's never been shoemakers plotting against your feet in the dark of night.

Heels aren't "mandatory", but no shoemaker wants to make a bunch of shoes that won't sell/nobody asked for Image

Nori,

Just a note: people rode horses with stirrups for centuries quite well without any heels. That heels were "invented" as a stop to prevent riders' feet from going through the stirrups is a bit doubtful IMO. Riding styles have changed down the centuries of course, but if you look at equestrian art since c.1600, usually only the ball of the foot is on the stirrup, heel down/toes up--no threat of sliding through. And as large and substantial as many of the early boots were, there's no chance of any of them sliding through the stirrup. Have a look at the boots here: http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/egallery/maker.asp?maker=12356

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#123 Post by elfn » Fri May 06, 2011 7:12 am

You're quite right, they did. In composing my post I was thinking of the American cowboy and his cutting and roping where the ability to seat the foot into the stirrup up to the heel was sometimes a must, but the mongols on the Steppes certainly didn't start out wearing heeled boots. Instead the stirrup would often have tapaderos (Mexican word, don't know the Mongol one) to prevent the foot going through the stirrup.

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#124 Post by chuck_deats » Sat May 07, 2011 6:57 am

Doing exactly what DW says not to do. I am going to speculate. The heel takes the most wear of any part of the shoe. When it wore out, someone scabbed a piece of leather on it. Not bad, maybe more comfortable. Make a shoe with a replacable piece of leather, wears longer, easier to patch. Maybe a little taller. Won't be paintings of poor folks trying to get maximum wear from their shoes.
Chuck

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Re: Origins of the Heel

#125 Post by dw » Sat May 07, 2011 7:15 am

Chuck,

I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't a factor.

But I don't want you to get a wrong impression...I'm not against speculation. In fact, I'm all for it.

I just don't think it is wise to refuse to recognize that it is speculation.

Portraying speculation and hypothesis and "maybes" as fact is not really rational or productive.

I remember watching the movie "Timeline" (written by Michael Crichton) and I remember enjoying it (I enjoyed the book) as a kind of light-weight, escapist, entertainment until the scene where a couple of the protagonists are hiding in a hollowed out area along a stream bank and a knight rides by. The camera is positioned to look out from the interior of the "cave" and all you see are the sides of the horse and the legs of the knight...who is wearing boots with a one inch heel. Ruined the whole movie for me. The knight might as well have been carrying a cell phone.

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