Today high heels are almost exclusively female, but this has not always been the case. In fact, a few hundred years ago it was completely the opposite. You could see soldiers, aristocrats and even members of royal families from all around the world wearing them. They first became popular during the 16th century in Persia and for one specific reason – they were incredibly well suited for riding. With them a soldier could stand up on the stirrups and stay secured while shooting his bow and arrow. At that time Persia was ruled by Shāh Abbās I the Great, who had the largest cavalry in the world. He wished to establish strong connections with European rulers and enlist their help in the fight against the Ottoman Empire. Persian diplomats travelled to Moscow, Norway, Germany, Rome and even Spain, as well as establishing relations with the English East India Company. All across Europe aristocrats saw the shoes as a symbol of power and a new fashion trend was soon created.
Louis XIV of France was famous for dyeing his heels in a deep red, which was very expensive and further emphasized his superior status. Wearing red heels became a symbol of currying favor with the king and he even enforced a rule to keep anyone without red-soled shoes from entering court. High heel shoes continued to be fashionable until the mid-18th century and the French Revolution. Suddenly no one wanted to be associated anymore with the aristocracy and the style was quickly abandoned.
The first use of high heels actually predates the Persians by more than a thousand years. In Ancient Greece actors used to wear raised shoes while performing on stage. They were called kothorni and the higher the shoe, the more important was the character. According to reports they could be as high as 10 cm.