Cuban Heels’ History

Mens heels have had a long and storied history, with what many in today’s world being considered “cuban heels” being worn as early as the 9th century by Mongolian horsemen, as depicted by decorations on a ceramic bowl. Back then heels were predominantly used for work. Even now, they’re useful when horse riding, as can be seen in many riding and cowboy boots. They could also be seen by Chinese rice farmers, or ancient Egyptian butchers who wished to avoid accidentally stepping into offal. Over the past millennium or so, heels have seen rises and falls in most countries and cultures. In France in the 1600s, it was considered the footwear of the elite, primarily by men. It was then appropriated by women as an attempt to attain social power by creating a masculine image akin to power suits of the 1980s. On the other end of the social scale, ancient Roman prostitutes could be identified by their high heels.

In reality, cuban heels are just one of a long line of male heels that have come in and out of fashion, and in the modern age, their time has returned. The term, “cuban heels” is also often called “latin heels” because not only does it come primarily  from Cuba, but it spawned from the latin dance movement that gained global fame. The cha-cha, the samba and rumba often were performed with men wearing decently sized heels. The spread of this sensation continues through to this day and brings with it a spice that has a cuban flavour but it’s own personality dependent on the country performing it.

Cuban heels get their name from latin dance in Cuba
Cuban heels get their name from latin dance in Cuba

Since the 18th century, in many European influenced countries, mens heels were low, barely rising above a single inch, so the influx of such wild and exotic fashion caused quite a stir. It wasn’t long before young people picked up the style and it really took hold in many countries during the 1930s. For England, it really took off in later years as taller and taller heels were worn by young pop and rock sensations. The most famous were the Beatles who proudly wore their cuban heels during their performances. The mod movement was beginning around the same time and as Britain rolled into the 1960s, the fashion solidified with minimalistic designs. Chelsea boots with cuban heels were often prized and worn regularly. They gave a sleek shape and a sense of height that brought power and authority. It was a style that gripped the nation and even today has its heels dug into the national subconscious.

While the 1990s saw a the cuban heel fizzle out of fashion thanks to hip hop and grunge fashion becoming quite prominent, they have seen a revival in modern times. Cowboy boots are more popular than ever with their high cuban heels once being worn for practical purposes, now being seen as a sign of masculinity, though some would say that only Americans wear them well. Bands such as Franz Ferdinand and comedians like Noel Fielding cover themselves in modern style, and can often be seen in cuban heels, Noel Fielding in particular rising to rather large heights.

The Beatles really represented the growing trend.
The Beatles really represented the growing trend.