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What are Stilettos?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 21, 2024
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They take their name from the slender switchblade, but stilettos, plural, are very high-heeled shoes. Some think they are as powerful in their own way as their namesake weapon.

Stilettos may be pumps, slings or sandals, but they all have a slender high heel in common. The "stiletto" refers to the metal pin that runs the length of the heel, reinforcing it. The heel is usually at least three inches (7.62 cm) high, but the sky is the limit, especially when a toe platform is added.

World War II brought a stolid, military feel to fashion, and the designers of the 1950s, such as Dior and his "New Look," took advantage of non-rationed fabrics to create billowing skirts and frothy blouses. Such creations demanded a shoe that was completely different from the chunky heels of the 40s. Shoe designer Roger Vivier responded with the stiletto.

In the 1950s, stilettos were usually pumps or slings and featured very, very pointed toes. Actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield quickly discovered that these mile-high heels were 100 proof sexy, and their movies of the 50s and 60s show them tripping about in stilettos. Stilettos, because of their height, seem to elongate the leg, and a woman has to walk in a different way when wearing them. Her gait changes to a hip-swaying strut, so she can keep her balance. This strut draws men like bees to honey, and many men find a woman's sexiest article of clothing to be a pair of stilettos.

Considering the fact that podiatrists have warned for years that prolonged wearing of high heels can cause foot problems like bunions and hammer toe, one would think that their popularity would have declined. However, stilettos remain a popular part of women's fashion.

Stilettos are available in stores and on the Internet, in designer labels and knock-offs. Depending on the maker, they can cost from $20 US Dollars (USD) to over $1,200 USD. One notable pair encrusted with genuine diamonds retails for over $2 million USD.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at BeautyAnswered. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By Histiletto — On Jun 27, 2021

From the heeled footwear of horse riding soldiers to the heeled shoes and boots that are presently available, the stiletto heel improves the profile of feet so much that they have become the most desired footwear accessory worn by men and women. Yes, I know society has blatantly assigned stilettos as women's footwear, but women chose to wear heels along with men, when heels were assigned as men's footwear. So, the idea of men wearing stilettos along with women is more apropos than the idea that stilettos are only women's footwear choices.

By Lostnfound — On Sep 15, 2014

Stilettos do make your legs look great, but like Grivusangel, I can't wear them either. I wish I could. My legs always look great when I wear stilettos.

I always chuckle when I see one of the numbers from the musical "Kinky Boots," extolling the merits of stilettos: "The Sex is in the Heel." I guess there's some truth to that. They look great and I'd love to be one of the women who can wear them successfully. I had such confidence in a pair of high heels, but heel spurs have caused me to retire my stilettos. I don't wear any heels over about 2 inches these days. It's just too uncomfortable.

By Grivusangel — On Sep 14, 2014

I can't do stilettos anymore. I haven't been able to wear them for years. I've sprained both ankles badly and have twisted a knee. This is not a good recipe for wearing really high heels.

A couple of years ago, nearly all my female co-workers were wearing mile-high stilettos. You could hear them coming down the hall a mile away.

One friend was having neck, back and shoulder problems and her doctor actually told her to lay off the high heels. She said the heels were making my friend cant her shoulders forward at an awkward angle, and it was causing neck and back strain. She stopped wearing the high heels and in about three or four days, the neck and shoulder pain were gone.

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at BeautyAnswered....
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