The wedge shoe, a design that’s been on most high street style radars for the past few years but actually has a much longer history. If you’re not a fan of ordinary high heeled shoes, wedge heels are a brilliant alternative, providing additional support where stilettos and similar leave you feeling vulnerable. They give the same illusion of longer legs and thinner ankles that high heels do and yet wedges better support the arch of your foot too – a nice bonus.
Wedge heels as we know them have been around since the 1930’s. First created by Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo. He produced the orthopaedic wedge in 1935, and the first wedge heel in 1936. Ferragamo used an unusual (for the time) combination of wood and cork in his designs, due to a shortage of leather and rubber. Cork proved the more popular option due to its lightweight feel yet sturdy and durable finish. Following Ferragamo’s wedge heel revelation, he became known as the ‘shoe maker of the stars’ following Hollywood celebs around the world and designing custom creations for one-off occasions.
Before Ferragamo’s wedge design, a similar shoe was the wedge ‘chopine’ of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. A very heavy wooden platform shoe created by men to prevented wives from straying!
During World War II, wedges increased in popularity with further shortage of rubber and leather, materials used in the conventional heel. The fashions of the times called for added height and wedges were an easier option for the time, a more practical and secure option to skinny heels. Around this time, shoulder pads were worn to add to the illusion of height. Whilst the wedge heels themselves could reach up to 5 inches tall during this period.
Following the war, wedges waned in popularity and didn’t resurface until the 70s; here louder designs were perfect for the colourful, playful and outrageous fashion designs that trended. A statement piece of the time included space for a goldfish to live in the heel! More a piece of art than a real footwear solution. During the 70s both men and women worked the wedge heel – something that had previously been strictly for women, unless worn for medical reasons. In the 1990s wedges further thrived, thanks to a certain wave of ‘Girl Power’! The Spice Girls made platform wedges huge in both sandals and trainer styles. This trend was pretty short lived however with the millennium saying goodbye to wedge shoes for a while.
Around 2006, wedges started to appear on the high street again. This time, more subtle wedge designs on sandals and flip-flops were seen – still a popular wedge design today. In 2013, Hi-Top wedges are a big trend, bringing a glamorous touch to otherwise sporting trainer designs. Gladiator sandals with wedges are also best-sellers, providing height for summer occasions when you want a relaxed heeled sandal that’s secure and won’t sink into the grass! Wedges on sale today can be found in both casual and formal designs to fit every taste.