By the end of the 17th Century, high heels were considered women’s shoes. Indeed, so strong was the connection between shoes and gender that a man wearing high heels could be arrested in New York under a law that forbade people from congregating in public while “disguised by unusual or unnatural attire.” First passed in 1845 to suppress masked political protests, this law was later used to justify the arrest of cross-dressing performers and bar patrons. Many similar laws persisted until the late twentieth century, when changing fashions and cultural norms rendered them unenforceable
Today, high-heeled shoes have appeared everywhere, from boardrooms to bedrooms to courtrooms. They have been called many things: Ultra-feminine, aggressive, provocative, misogynistic, glamorous, fetishistic, immobilizing, erotic, empowering, stylish — just about everything but comfortable.
Gregg Barnes designed these patent metallic leather high-heeled platform lace-up boots in 2013 for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, which is based on the true story of a struggling shoe factory that survived by producing high-heeled fetish footwear in men’s sizes.
Photographed as Part of Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes, on Exhibit Through October 8th, 2018, at the New York Historical Society, Located at 77th Street and CPW in NYC.