When we think about the fashionably-historic 1970s, the first image that pops up in our heads is bell-bottom pants, wide-collared shirts, and platform shoes. The 70s, or the disco era, is when the platform shoes became the most popular. These were the times when the platform shoes made their significant mark on the fashion timeline. However, the history of platform shoes is not that short. It dates back as long as the 13th century.
In ancient Greece, platform shoes were worn to increase the height of important characters in Greek theatre. The actors would wear leather sandals with cork platforms named the Cothurnus. The more important the character, the higher the platform heels of the Cothurnus. The aim was to make sure the leads of the act could be viewed better because of the alleviation provided by the heels.
The 13th century saw the making of ‘Kabkabs’. Named after the clapping sound they made when walked in, Kabkabs were introduced in the Middle-East for a very practical use. It was the time of public toilets, and these platform shoes, almost like tiny stilts, had the purpose of saving’s one clothes from mud and water while using the toilets. Mainly used for an objective, Kabkabs were also made a little fashionable by accessorizing them with shells and ivory.
Moving ahead on the timeline, the Middle Ages brought with them the Patten. Worn by the elite and the peasantry alike, Pattens were shoes with alleviated soles to avoid the dirt on the streets from dirtying the clothes. The Pattens further evolved into the Chopine, during the 13th century, which was an extravagant, over-the-top shoe worn by the Italian nobility. They had distinctive shapes and were excessively embellished with jewels. This highly decorative version was also quite fashionable in Spain.
The platforms were also constant during the 15th century, where the Zoccoli got their popularity from the functional purpose of avoiding the feet from getting wet when the pavements were flooded. In 1547, Catherine de Medici wore Chopines to give her petite frame a boost. This led to the introduction of this trend among the French elite.
The 20th Century
During the 20th century, the trend of high-soled shoes again took a turn. In the early 1930s, designer Moshe Kimel introduced the first modern version of the platform shoes for the actress Marlene Dietrich. This version of the platform soon became a hit among the Beverly Hills elite.
In 1938, Salvatore Ferragamo designed ‘The Rainbow’ for Judy Garland, a singer, actress, and vaudevillian, bringing the platform back in style in the West. This shoe was a homage to Judy Garland’s signature song ‘Over the Rainbow’ in Wizard of Oz. Due to war rationing, Salvatore Ferragamo experimented with wood and cork, for the making of this shoe, rather than leather.
The 1940s experienced the making of the platform shoe with a high arch. They were designed to make the heel elevated only slightly above the toes. In the 50s, however, the trend of the platform shoes slowly died down.
The Disco Era
The trend of platform shoes took a major hike again in the late 1960s and continued to be all the rage till the late 1970s. Getting famous in Europe and Britain, the fad stretched over to the US, lasting till the 1980s.
The 1970s is famous for the introduction of disco culture, and platform shoes are known to be a major part of it. Known as the ‘party shoe’, platforms were usually worn by disco-goers. These shoes were used to gain attention on the dance floor. The craze of platform shoes heightened to a point where these shoes were doused in glitter, had tiny lights or some were even seen to have tiny live aquariums inside their platform’s high heels!
At the start of the trend, the shoes were mainly worn by young women in their teens and twenties. During the disco era, men were also seen jumping on the platform shoes bandwagon.
As much as the platform shoes are known to provide a boost in the height of the wearers with ease, many known artists wore them just to attract attention. Many glam rock stars, such as David Bowie, were seen sporting the platform shoes in their performances during the 70s.
During this era, a wide variety of styles were famous but the most known style was the Kork-Ease, a wedge-heel platform sandal with quarter straps. This goes on to emphasize the fact that the platforms were probably the most famous shoe trend during the disco era. The platform shoes reached the pinnacle of their fame during the 1970s decade.
The Modern Times
The platform shoe trend had slowly faded away, but the 1990s saw a revival once again. Vivienne Westwood, a UK fashion designer, re-introduced the trend in high-fashion. The 9-inch platforms were also responsible for the oh-so-famous runway fall of the model, Naomi Campbell.
Giving the platforms some newfound fame, the Spice Girls gang were also seen wearing platform boots or sneakers, in most of their performances. The footwear brand ‘Buffalo’ was famous for producing the high-heeled shoes worn by the members of the group.
A signature style for the popstar Lady Gaga, platforms have been present at all times. Gaga is known to own a rare pair of Alexandra McQueens Armadillo Boots which have been made from hand-carved wood.
In recent times, an evolved look of the platform, known as the flatform, made its debut into the fashion world. Flatforms have a leveled platform that covers the entire foot. Super comfortable and stable to wear, flatforms also fulfill the purpose of giving that vertical boost to a petite frame.
Platform shoes are a useful style for people looking to give a few inches worth of boost to their height. Most women today own some version or form of a platform shoe. Whether it’s a wedge-heel sandal, a platform pump or a high-soled sneaker, platforms are a must-have in every women’s wardrobe.