Don’t look down on them—these interesting facts about the history of shoes prove that it’s been a long, triumphant journey to today’s feet.
Venice had a shoe problem in the 15th century. The fashion was to don heels so high that it was dangerous to topple off them. In 1430, the government introduced a law outlawing shoes above 3.5 inches out of fear that women would continue to wear them “to the great harm of their bodies and souls.”
The Wizard of Oz’s real breakout stars were Dorothy’s ruby slippers. There are four known pairs in existence, plus one pair that didn’t appear in the movie, just screen tests. In 2000, one set of these red shoes sold for $666,000 to a group of investors.
Why Not Stealthers?
In 1917, adman Henry Nelson McKinney claimed to invent the term “sneakers” because rubber-soled shoes were so quiet and “stealthy.” History shows that the word was in use before that, though, on playgrounds and in prisons.
The invention of open-toed shoes came in response to the growing popularity of sunbathing. This trend, of course, created a demand for another invention: nail polish for pedicures.
Bill Nye has talents beyond his reputation as “The Science Guy.” He used his powers for good when he invented a shoe for ballet dancers that causes less damage to their feet.
Confederate troops during the Civil War marched through swamps in alligator-skin footwear. No one would dare do such a thing with exotic-skin shoes today, which are expensive and require considerable upkeep.
Two Left Feet
Comfort wasn’t a real priority until 1818, with the invention of the first pair of shoes that differentiated the left from the right. Sadly, we celebrate this accomplishment with as much fanfare as the Liberty Bell.
Stiletto pioneer Christian Louboutin took inspiration from Andy Warhol’s “Flowers” art but wasn’t convinced that his design did it justice. So he grabbed an assistant’s red nail polish and painted the bottom of the shoes.
Men were the first to wear heels because these types of shoes helped them keep their feet in stirrups while horseback riding. The trend dates back to the 10th century. Since owning horses was a sign of wealth, men started wearing heels around town to show off their social status.
Lost in Space
Neil Armstrong left his footwear on the moon after he took his famous giant leap, in case of contamination. They’re still floating out there…somewhere…so that one day, other forms of life may begin to discover interesting facts about the history of human shoes.