Historians working at Cambridge University have discovered the origins of the stiletto heel, or court shoe, whilst trawling through cobbling records from seventeenth century France.
"Many people think that court shoes are so called because they are worn by courting women," said BBC Historian Lucy Worsley, who has convinced BBC 3 to screen a fifty part series on cross dressing through history. "They weren't."
Whilst looking through royal cobblers records (that's records from cobblers to the French court, not a description of the records), Cambridge University Historians have discovered that Louis XIV was only five foot two, but did not want the courtiers to know he was short.
"The block heel was a common footwear item for ages," said Worsley. "But Louis the Great didn't want people thinking he was a short arse by wearing block heels."
According the right royal cobblers, as they were known (spawning another common phrase) the French king ordered them to develop a new shoe that would add height to his depth without anybody being any the wiser.
"The cobblers came up with the stiletto heel," said Worsley. "This heel was so thin that Louis thought nobody could see it, and it added four inches to his height."
Louis loved the shoes so much, he had several pairs made up, with various height heels. According to the records of the time, his favourite pair were five inches in height, but impossible for him to walk in.
"Contemporaries of Louis always said he walked like a woman," said Worsley. "All hips and little strides."
It was also noted how great Louis's calves looked in his new footwear. It wasn't long before short men across Europe were wearing the new 'court shoe', so called because of it's popularity in the French Court. Once women got hold of the new shoe, there was no going back, and inside a hundred years the footwear item was solely the province of women.
"I love my heels," said Worsley, who is short herself. "So thank you Louis! Of course, none of this explains why he wore his hair long, was never seen in public without make-up and had a fancy for tights and dresses."