This article was posted in the CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) venue hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav. The article has been slightly edited from its original version posted by CAIS on April 18, 2008.


A phoney footwear fallacy has been debunked — turns out Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik can’t take credit for the sky-high heel. In fact, centuries before any designer began carrying models along the catwalk on their creations, Persian princesses perfected the platform in an effort to keep their feet from falling out of stirrups while riding horseback, according to a report by Canada’s Winnipeg Sun News.

“This is a history of European fashion footwear,” said Bata Shoe Museum conservator Ada Hopkins, whose handiwork — a travelling exhibit titled Height of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Foot — can be seen today through July 15 at the Costume Museum of Canada.

“(The curator) has done a lot of research and traced the origin of the heel back to Persia,” Hopkins said. 

“The Persians were a very strong, conquering nation and that strength and that exoticism, elements of what they wore were taken by other people and … can even be seen now.”

More than 50 high-heeled kicks from early Persia to a Jimmy Choo concoction (circa 2006) are on display at the Pacific Avenue museum, courtesy of the Toronto shoe collector and a grant from the federal government.

Social conditions

Hopkins, who will travel with the exhibit to each of its four scheduled Canadian stops and assemble the collection, said every piece in the display tells a story of social conditions at the time it became fashionable.

“It tells our attitude towards women, the mores of the times and any politics going on,” Hopkins said. “A lot of them are defined by however the men want to look because — in the past, at least — women were just an extension of their men.”