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Bata Shoe Museum Examines Men in Heels

In a new exhibit opening Friday, The Bata Shoe Museum (BSM) in Toronto poses the question: Why do men wear heels? The exhibit, Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels, looks to challenge ideas about who wears heels and why, and showcases rare examples of men’s heels from the 17th and 18th-centuries to the size 16 stilettos and customizable lifts made for men today.

Highlights in the exhibit span a thigh-high riding boot from the 18th-century with a stacked leather heel and a dramatic flared leg cuff, to a slouch mid-20th century biker boot with stirrup details. A selection of heels worn by celebrities seeking a more dramatic presence is also on display, including John Lennon’s iconic “Beatle” boot, a Chelsea boot with a higher heel inspired by male flamenco dancers, and Elton John’s glittery seven-and-a-half-inch Ferradini platforms.

“When heels were introduced into fashion at the turn of the 17th century, men were the first to adopt them, and they continued wearing heels as expressions of power and prestige for over 130 years,” said BSM senior curator Elizabeth Semmelhack. “Even after they fell from men’s fashion in the 1730s, there were pockets of time when heels were reintegrated into the male wardrobe not as a way of challenging masculinity but rather as a means of proclaiming it.”

The museum is home to an international collection of over 13,000 shoes and related artifacts. Standing Tall is one of several “unexpected” undertakings celebrating the museum’s 20th anniversary. The exhibit will be on display until May 2016.