One thing about the good old human race. They’re not afraid to cripple themselves in the name of fashion. Victorian ladies would deform their bodies with corsets that would tighten their waistlines down to an extreme degree. African ladies of culture still shove their shoulders down several inches with brass rings in order to achieve their epitome of beauty: a long looking neck. And, circa 1975, hip youths of both genders in the US and Europe strapped guaranteed ankle-breakers onto their ever-boogieing feet: platform shoes.
Platform shoes have actually been with mankind since at least the Roman Empire. Actors would wear platform-soled-shoes an inch thick or so while performing plays. In the late 1400’s, fashionable women of Venice were spotted wearing chopines, raised overshoes that slipped over more dainty shoes, protecting them from mud in the ever-sinking city.
The chopine disappeared by the 1600’s, much as Venice continues to do little by little. But in the 1930’s, platform shoes reappeared in both continents, in very art deco styles. As WWII began raging, shoes were produced with cork and leather soles, as rubber was limited to wartime usage.
Then, during the 40’s, platform soles once again vanished from sight. Enter the free-wheeling late 60’s.
As bell bottoms began showing up on the legs of America’s youth, it was a natural sight to see thick platform-soled shoes accompanying them, at least on the ladies. As we wended our way into the 70’s, bells got bigger, platforms got higher, and men joined in on the fun with their own platform heels.
I remember owning some dress shoes circa 1975 with three-inch heels. That was as extreme as I ever got. But I loved being nearly six feet tall when i wore them!
Of course, the extremes were pushed much higher than that. ABBA was known for all four its Swedish members wearing platforms in various heights, the girls generally higher than the boys.
But the undisputed king of outrageous platform altitude was the diminutive Brit Elton John. Sir Elton would appear onstage decked out in fluorescent finery and perched upon a pair of platform soles that might measure a foot or more in height.
The extremes of 1970’s fashion disappeared almost overnight when the decade came to an end. Platform shoes went the way of the leisure suit. But unlike the san-necktie polyester abomination, platform shoes have had modest comebacks, at least among the fairer sex.
In the early 1990’s, platform shoes came back into vogue for women. And they have never completely disappeared. Tennis shoes can be seen mounted on two-or three-inch platforms. Tall stiletto heels are as popular as ever. And podiatrists are making millions, because chic shoe fashion continually demands that what’s hot is also what’s dangerous to walk on.