Platform Shoes

Platform Shoes

Nothing says “walking tall” like the obscenely elevated soles of the platform shoe. As any survivor of the disco era can attest, one’s stature in the fashion world was measured in part by the amazing heights achievable in these stylish stilts. But the platform shoe has a storied history that dates much farther back than the Bee Gees.

Venetian aristocrats of the 1400s preferred to call them “chopines” – an overshoe of sorts that consisted of a tall block of wood attached to the bottoms of ladies shoes to help protect them from the mud along cobblestone streets, sometimes achieving heights of two feet. Often, ladies were accompanied by escorts to ensure they could safely walk in them without taking a towering tumble.

Flash forward five hundred years and the platform shoe made a comeback in the 1930s. Made of either wood or cork, the heights attained by Venetian royalty of centuries past was scaled back to an altitude far less likely to result in a nosebleed. The lightweight property of cork made the shoes popular among beachgoers and by the 40s, an ankle-strap platform was a perfect match for the rising hemlines of the day.

In the 50s, shoe styles came back down to Terra Firma with the flat-soled ballet slipper. But in the decades that followed, the soles would once again rise like a mercury thermometer on an August day. The sixties certainly had their share of wild fashions, and soles were certainly starting to thicken, but they paled in comparison to what was around the corner in the decade that followed.

The staggering heights achieved in the 70s are the stuff of legend. At least partially responsible for the footwear’s resurgence was the monstrous pair that Elton John strutted around in the 1969 rock opera, Tommy. As a result of his iconic scene in the movie, Elton would spend the remainder of the decade amusing his concert fans with his colorful and often eccentric collection of dazzling platform shoes.

The rock band, KISS, paraded around in elevated boots that darn-near required them to wear oxygen masks. When John Travolta took to the Saturday Night Fever dance floor in his white suit, pompadour and platform shoes, his style choices mirrored the ascent of disco music popularity, for better or worse, and brought the eye-catching shoes yet again to the forefront.

Feet would come back to Earth in the 80s, as heights became more conservative, but not for long. The 90s ushered in a resurgence of platform popularity, not only thanks to the disco revival but also the rave scene. Even the Spice Girls got in on the action and started heading back towards the shoe stratosphere.

The popularity of the platform shoe will continue to rise and fall as the decades pass, for the temptation to tower above the crowd shows every indication of persistence. A word of caution to the uninitiated though – a strong sense of balance is of the utmost importance. Falling from your perch is never fashionable.

Did you tower over the crowd back in the day, thanks to a sturdy pair of platform shoes. We would, of course, love to hear all of your thoughts and memories in our comment section below.

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