Arts & Entertainment
12 min

Hurray for men in heels!

Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum’s new exhibit digs into towering history

“High heels are pleasure with pain.” — Christian Louboutin

So, Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum has a new exhibit . . . and it’s a good one!

Though Pavel Patel (pictured above) isn’t featured, the museum’s press release describes the show:

Standing Tall: The Curious History Of Men In Heels “will challenge preconceived notions about who wears heels and why. From privileged rulers to hyper-sexualized rock stars this provocative exhibition will explore the history of men in heels from the early 1600s to today, delving into the use and meanings of heeled footwear in men’s dress over the last 400 years.”

For some reason in the last hundred years or so, the thought of men wearing high heels is a bit “out there,” “weird” or “gay.”

Well, we say fuck yeah to things changing! In honour of the exhibit, we’ve come up with some noteable man-heeled moments in history. Our list takes matters forward into the days of the internet, and RuPaul.

With the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Beyoncé’s innumerable and splendid music videos, boys are proudly throwing on their FM pumps and flaunting their fierceness for all to see. There’s liberation in gesture and attitude when a boy straps on his heels.

Remember when YouTube exploded with young boys doin’ their best Bey moves to her mega-hit “Single Ladies?” It was truly a magical moment of the younger generation, praising boys — like twinky Shane Mercado — for letting their “femme” out.

A boy wasn’t hiding in his room dancing in front of the mirror in fear of being caught. No, he was taping it and uploading it online for all to see!

I mean, just check out French choreographer Yanis Marshall (with fellow dancers Aunaud and Mehdi) or performers Kazaky. Heels made those boys stars, and now they star in Madonna videos.

David Bowie and Elton John’s 1970s personas were all about being wild and colorful . . . as flamboyant as you could get. Their heels of choice were more of the platform variety . . . high as stilettos but a chunkier, “manly” heel.

Of course the boys jazzed them up with floral patterns (hello Prince), zigzags and rainbows. No brown and beige, thank you very much.

Gays also love to subvert the “macho” heel. Just think of the swagger that happens when you put on a cowboy or motorcycle boot? It can go either way. You’re The Wild One-era Brando or today’s Miss J Alexander . . . or both. Look at comedian Eddie Izzard, who from the beginning of his career has worn heels on stage. He identifies as a crossdresser. We identify him as confident and ferocious.

There’s just nothing better then a drag queen loving her heels (just check out this amazing 1968 doc The Queen) or a transgender person feeling the power that a simple damn high heel makes in their lives.

So I say hooray for heels! Work it, girl!

“If I hadn’t been a woman, I’d be a drag queen for sure. I like all that flair and I’d be dressing up in them high heels and putting on the big hair. I’d be like RuPaul.”  — Dolly Parton

Standing Tall: A Curious History Of Men In Heels opens Friday, May 8
Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor Street West, Toronto
batashoemuseum.ca