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History of Heels: An Evolution of Nearly 100 Years, 1920s to Now



Over the past nine decades, high heels have drastically evolved — but some styles continue to reemerge through the years.

In the 1920s and 1930s, women wore pumps with elongated toes and thicker heels. Detailing came through bows at the toes or crisscrossed straps.

high heels, 1920sAn ad from 1924 displays heels with an elongated toe and intricate detailing.
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In the 1940s, as pin-up images became increasingly popular, high heels took on a sultrier appearance. Women began sporting slingback heels in elegant metallic colorways.

But women’s footwear got a sleeker update in the 1950s, when stilettos took off. These white pumps Joan Collins sported in 1957 feel modern even today, as white heels were a major trend of the summer.

Joan CollinsJoan Collins wears white pumps with a thin heel in 1957.
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In the 1960s, women began sporting lower, kitten heels. Audrey Hepburn, a fashion plate of the day, sported teeny heels and a little black dress in the now-iconic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and other women followed suit.

Audrey Hepburn Shoe StyleAudrey Hepburn in her famous little black dress and kitten heels from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1961.
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As the disco era of the ’70s came into being, the platform sandal had its moment. But by the 1980s, women had begun to sport sensible pumps on a relatively low heel. As more women began to enter positions of power, these shoes meant business.

Margaret ThatcherMargaret Thatcher wears low black heels with sparkly detailing in 1984.
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By the 1990s, the ’60s kitten heel came back into style, with Princess Diana leading the way. Women around the world looked to emulate the Princess of Wales’ sleek style, and the easy-to-walk-in shoe’s return was celebrated.

Princess DIana, high heelsThe “Princess Shoe,” modeled after a style worn by Princess Diana.
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The new millennium brought with it a return to racier footwear, with women sporting higher heels. Pop icons such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears stepped out in high-heeled sandals with dramatic ankle-straps, and stilettos were back in a big way.

Christina Aguilera, sandalsChristina Aguilera wears lace-up sandals in 2002.
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In the current decade, high-heeled ankle boots and thigh-high boots have become incredibly popular.

The thigh-high boot, in particular, has taken the fashion world by storm. Whether in a shiny patent leather or a more toned down suede, the thigh-high has ruled the runway, the red carpets and the streets in the current decade.

ZendayaZendaya wears thigh-high boots in November.
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But for the spring ’18 season, an old favorite is back: The kitten heel makes it return yet again.

Click the gallery to see the evolution of high heels through the years

Want more?

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From the Archives: Stylish Boots Through the Decades


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