You may think platform shoes are something straight out of contemporary pop culture, but you’d be wrong. Platform shoes have a rich and varied history that begins in the theaters of Ancient Greece. Tragic actors would often don platform sandals with wood or cork soles. This added height was reserved for characters of particular importance or nobility. The practice was adopted by the Romans who called these platform sandals kothorni.
Catherine d’Medici wore specially made 2-inch platform heels to her wedding to the Duke of Orleans. The petite duchess’ “platform sandals” were called chopines and were popular in Venice. They were different than other high heels at the time because the chopine elevated the entire foot. Roman men also were said to wear shoes with elevated heels to increase their height; in China during the Qing dynasty, a nobleman named Manchu wore platform shoes similar to the chopines of Venice.
These platform shoes were associated with wealth, nobility and power. They were a way of disguising someone’s petite size, or of elevating an “important” person to even greater heights. But platform sandals also have a less “noble” history. They were commonly worn by highborn courtesans in Venice during the 16th century, and they were used in the 18th century to lift people out of the putrid mud in the streets.
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Platform shoes existed in the US and Europe in the 1930s, 40s and 50s but they did not become a fashion sensation until the 1970s and 80s. At first, platform shoes were popular for young women, but once disco reigned, platform shoes became the must-have accessory of stylish young men. These platform shoes were all about making an outrageous fashion statement. Rockers such as David Bowie and the band KISS donned platform shoes as part of their larger-than-life personas.
Platform shoes of the 70s ad 80s were made with cork, wood and synthetic soles. These massive soles could transform boots, sneakers, dress shoes and even sandals into platform sensations. As the trend progressed some companies (such as Kork-Ease) went for “comfort” platforms while others tried for higher heights and even more outrageous designs. The trend started to die out in the late 1980s but has made several comebacks in the 1990s and first decade of the 20th century. The Spice Girls rocked out in platform shoes for a new generation of teens and tweens.
Though platform shoes perhaps look more outrageous, they are actually better for the feet than most high heels because they elevate the entire foot, keeping heel and toes on the same level.
Jane Barron works for OddShoeFinder.com,a free online website that helps people find mismatched footwear.Get more information on deformed feet, corrective shoes or foot length difference.
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