Clothing Trivia – why do we wear suits and high heels?

The suit

Whilst those Silicon Valley types may reject them, business and politics is full of suits. Have you ever stopped to wonder why you find yourself automatically slipping into this uniform?

Let’s take a trip back to post-plague Britain.  The monarchy was under threat as the dissatisfied Parliamentarians gained power. Thus, to prevent revolutionary sentiments, Charles II did the best he could to distance the monarchy from its associations with wasteful excess and French fashions. He ordered his nobles to dress more simply, so they rejected their furs and trimmings and donned the very first version of the suit.

Over time, this evolved and by the 18th century, London became the focal point for men’s tailoring. The famous tailors on Savile Row used their skills in making military garments to make suits for civilians. They were popularized by George Brummel, a notorious social climber. He commissioned well-fitted trousers and coats, and eventually, the suit reached 19th century American business culture.  Today, more than 150 years later, you’ve probably got some suits in your wardrobe.

High heels

How did it come about that this painful shoe worn by women has persisted for centuries? Surprisingly, men as early as in the 10th century originally wore it. Why? Heels helped those on horseback stay in the stirrups better. Since those in the upper class owed horses, the heels they wore also become associated with the wealth. They were very popular with the French aristocracy and it was the rather short French King Louis XIV is the one who introduced the red sole, not Christian Louboutin!

However, as democracy become more fashionable with the arrival of the French revolution, the heel went out of style. Even in the New World, heels became associated with male entrapment and women were banned from wearing them, else were tried for witchcraft.

They resurfaced as photography came about, and heels were used in pin-up girl posters to improve the female posture, linking this footwear with seduction and females. In the post-war period, the heels were made ever more popular with brands like Christian Dior who designed stilettoes, and they’ve continued to be popularized ever since.

The monarchy can teach us a thing or two about the importance of how you look!

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