History of Platform Shoes


As you walk through the annals of fashion history, platform shoes stand tall as a towering example of style’s cyclical nature. Originating over two millennia ago, these shoes have strutted through various cultures and epochs, evolving from their practical inception in ancient civilizations to icons of high fashion and pop culture.

You’ve likely seen them glamorized by celebrities from the Spice Girls to Lady Gaga, but the journey of platform shoes is more than just a series of fashion statements. It’s a story that bridges continents and centuries, revealing much about the societies that embraced them. Uncover why this enduring trend has continually found its footing in the ever-changing world of fashion.

Key Takeaways

  • Platform shoes have a rich history, dating back to 200 B.C., symbolizing status and practicality across cultures.
  • They became a powerful symbol of self-expression and rebellion in various subcultures, from the disco era to punk.
  • Iconic figures like David Bowie, the Spice Girls, and Lady Gaga have significantly influenced the popularity and meaning of platform shoes.
  • The modern resurgence of platforms showcases their versatility and ongoing role as statements of empowerment and individuality in fashion.

Ancient Origins

Patten Shoes from Middle Ages

Tracing back to 200 B.C., Greek actors first donned leather and cork platform shoes for heightened presence on stage. This early use of platforms wasn’t merely for fashion or vanity; it was a practical solution for visibility and symbolic status. But, the Greeks weren’t the only ancient culture to elevate their footwear.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages, and you’ll find a form of platform called pattens. These were essentially wooden stilts, designed to keep the wearer’s feet above the mud and filth of medieval streets. Unlike the Greeks, the use of pattens wasn’t confined to performers but became a common sight among the general populace.

The evolution of platform shoes continued as they became more than just practical solutions. In the Middle East, during the 1300s, platforms were taken to new heights—quite literally. These shoes were often decorated with ivory and shells, transforming them into a statement of wealth and status. This marked a shift from platforms being a necessity to a symbol of luxury. Each step in their evolution not only reflects changes in technology and materials but also in societal values and norms.

Medieval Majesty

Chopine Shoes

Why did medieval royalty and nobility turn to platform shoes, elevating both their stature and status above the muddied streets below? It wasn’t just about making a fashion statement; it was a matter of practicality intertwined with a display of wealth and power.

In Venice, noblewomen donned Venetian Chopines, platform shoes that could add up to an astonishing 20 inches of height, signaling their elevated status in society quite literally. These Chopines weren’t just about looking taller; they were a symbol of the wearer’s wealth and social standing.

Similarly, in Spain, the aristocracy wore Zoccoli, a form of platform shoes that served the same dual purpose. The elevated footwear wasn’t merely for show; it was an ingenious solution to the problem of navigating through the dirty, damp streets without soiling one’s garments. This way, royalty and noble figures managed to keep their attire pristine, all the while making a bold fashion statement.

Through these elevated shoes, medieval society’s elite could distinguish themselves, not just in terms of fashion, but also in demonstrating a clear separation from the hardships of everyday life faced by the lower classes.

1970s Disco Era

1970s Disco Era

As you step into the 1970s disco era, you’ll find that platform shoes weren’t just footwear; they were a cultural phenomenon. Iconic styles emerged, worn by celebrities like Elton John and David Bowie, who made them symbols of the time.

Their cultural impact was profound, influencing not just fashion, but the very essence of disco’s bold and extravagant spirit.

Iconic Styles Emerged

In the 1970s disco era, platform shoes became a fashion statement with their eye-catching designs and were embraced by celebrities like Elton John and David Bowie. The history of these shoes isn’t just about fashion; it’s about the statement they made during the 70s disco era. Celebrities flaunting these shoes added to their allure, making them synonymous with the glamorous aesthetics of the time.

Consider these iconic styles that emerged:

  1. Glitter and Sequins: Platforms dazzled with glitter and sequins, catching the light on the dance floor.
  2. Bright Colors: Bold, eye-popping colors defined the era’s platforms, embodying the vibrant spirit of the 70s.
  3. Bold Patterns: From psychedelic swirls to geometric shapes, patterns on platforms were anything but subtle, reflecting the era’s experimental fashion sense.

Cultural Impact

Beyond their striking appearance, platform shoes played a pivotal role in the cultural landscape of the 1970s disco era, symbolizing more than just a fashion trend. They embodied the era’s cultural impact, where fashion began to intertwine with music and lifestyle like never before.

Rock musicians like Elton John and David Bowie didn’t just wear them; they flaunted them, adding layers of sex appeal and high fashion to their personas. The disco era’s vibrant culture was perfectly captured in the glitter, bright colors, and bold patterns that adorned these shoes.

Not just for show, their practicality for dancing and socializing made them indispensable. As celebrities embraced them, platform shoes cemented their place as a staple in the flamboyant disco scene, making a lasting mark on fashion history.

1990s Revival

As you explore the ’90s revival of platform shoes, you’ll notice how celebrity influence played a pivotal role. Pop icons like the Spice Girls didn’t just wear them; they made platform boots an essential part of ’90s fashion.

This era’s shift in fashion trends brought platforms back to the forefront, blending nostalgia with contemporary designs.

Celebrity Influence

Celebrity Influence

The revival of platform shoes in the 90s was significantly driven by celebrities like the Spice Girls, who made flatform sandals and platform boots iconic fashion statements. Their influence saw designers like Vivienne Westwood’s Naomi Ghillie platforms gaining prominence.

As we moved into the 2000s, icons such as Lady Gaga kept the trend alive, embracing bold designs like Alexander McQueen’s armadillo boots. Stella McCartney later introduced a more wearable take with her star-adorned lace-up flatforms.

To understand the celebrity influence on platform shoes, consider:

  1. Spice Girls: Elevating platform shoes into pop culture.
  2. Lady Gaga: Showcasing avant-garde platforms.
  3. Alexander McQueen & Stella McCartney: Bringing high fashion into the mix, redefining wearable art through platforms.

Fashion Trends Shift

Reflecting on the celebrity-driven resurgence of platform shoes in the ’90s and 2000s, we now see a vibrant revival of these trends in the 2010s, with fashion once again embracing the elevated style. Here’s how the journey looks:

Decade Iconic Figure Shoe Style
1990s Spice Girls Bold Platform Heels
2000s Lady Gaga Elevated Footwear
2010s Stella McCartney Modern Flatforms

This table encapsulates the history of platform shoes, highlighting the key moments and celebrities that brought these styles to the forefront. From the 90s revival with the Spice Girls to modern interpretations by designers like Stella McCartney and brands like Balenciaga, you’re witnessing the cyclical nature of fashion where platform heels keep making a comeback, blending history with contemporary flair.

Exploring the Types of Platform Shoes

Exploring the Types of Platform Shoes

Delving into the types of platform shoes, you’ll discover a variety of styles ranging from the retro elegance of platform heels to the casual comfort of platform sneakers. The history of these shoes showcases an evolution in fashion where both women and men have embraced added height and style. Platform shoes have transitioned through decades, becoming more than just a fashion statement; they’re a blend of culture, identity, and personal style.

Here are three key types to consider:

  1. Platform Heels: A nod to the 1970s, these come in vibrant colors and materials like cork and wood, offering a retro vibe that’s both chic and eye-catching.
  2. Platform Boots: Examples like the Puma Suede Platform Chelsea Boots show how these shoes combine the practicality of boots with the stylish elevation of platforms, making them a go-to for women seeking both comfort and style.
  3. Platform Sneakers: With options like the adidas Originals Nizza Platforms, these shoes are perfect for everyday wear, providing a fashionable yet comfortable choice for those on the go.

Exploring these styles, you’ll see how platforms have continually adapted, offering something for everyone’s taste and lifestyle.

Notable Figures

Exploring the impact of platform shoes further, let’s look at how certain iconic figures have made these styles unforgettable in fashion history. Carmen Miranda, with her colorful and flamboyant style, brought platform shoes to the forefront in the 1940s, making them a symbol of bold fashion choices. In the 1970s, David Bowie and Elton John, each with their unique personas, embraced platform shoes, incorporating them into the glam rock and disco scenes, respectively. Their use of platform shoes wasn’t just a fashion statement; it was a bold expression of individuality and defiance of conventional norms.

Moving into the 1990s, the Spice Girls took the platform shoe trend to new heights. They weren’t just a British girl group; they were fashion icons, making platform shoes an essential part of pop culture. Fast forward to more recent times, and you’ll see Lady Gaga continuing the tradition. Her avant-garde platform shoes aren’t just footwear; they’re a part of her daring and often controversial fashion choices. Each of these figures, from Carmen Miranda to Lady Gaga, has contributed to the rich history of platform shoes, making them more than just a fashion accessory, but a statement of self-expression.

Modern Resurgence

Modern Resurgence

Why have platform shoes made a strong comeback in recent years? The answer lies not just in fashion’s cyclical nature but also in the bold statements these shoes continue to make. Every resurgence brings with it a modern version that nods to its rich history, while pushing boundaries in design and cultural relevance.

Consider these points:

  1. Innovative Designs: From Salvatore Ferragamo’s creations for Judy Garland to Alexander McQueen’s armadillo boots, each era sees designers pushing the envelope. These aren’t just shoes; they’re wearable art that challenges norms.
  2. Celebrity Influence: When icons like Lady Gaga wore McQueen’s armadillo boots at the MTV VMAs, it wasn’t just a fashion choice—it was a statement. The same goes for the Spice Girls in the ’90s. Their platform shoes became synonymous with girl power, influencing an entire generation in the United States and beyond.
  3. Controversial Collaborations: Balenciaga’s partnership with Crocs, creating modern platform designs, sparked debate. Yet, it also highlighted how platform shoes continue to evolve, blending comfort with high fashion in unexpected ways.

Platforms aren’t just footwear; they’re a cultural phenomenon that reflects society’s changing attitudes and the endless quest for individuality in the fashion world.


Throughout history, you’ve seen platform shoes evolve from their ancient origins to a modern fashion staple. They’ve graced the feet of royals, disco dancers, and pop icons alike, proving their timeless appeal.

Whether it’s the towering designs of the ’70s or the Spice Girls’ chunky kicks, these shoes have made their mark. Today, they continue to captivate with both nostalgia and innovation, cementing their place in your wardrobe as a symbol of style and history.

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