Nothing says “walking tall” like the obscenely elevated soles of the platform shoe. As any survivor of the disco era can attest, one’s stature in the fashion world was measured in part by the amazing heights achievable in these stylish stilts. But the platform shoe has a storied history that dates much farther back than the Bee Gees.
Venetian aristocrats of the 1400s preferred to call them “chopines” – an overshoe of sorts that consisted of a tall block of wood attached to the bottoms of ladies shoes to help protect them from the mud along cobblestone streets, sometimes achieving heights of two feet. Often, ladies were accompanied by escorts to ensure they could safely walk in them without taking a towering tumble.
Flash forward five hundred years and the platform shoe made a comeback in the 1930s. Made of either wood or cork, the heights attained by Venetian royalty of centuries past was scaled back to an altitude far less likely to result in a nosebleed. The lightweight property of cork made the shoes popular among beachgoers and by the 40s, an ankle-strap platform was a perfect match for the rising hemlines of the day.