Wedges, a type of platform shoe, have been around since the 1930s. The first wedges didn’t have a distinct heel and had cellophane straps. The wedge heel is thick and one piece with the sole, whereas high-heeled shoes have a separate heel. Height ranges from a slight raise in the heel to several inches. Wedge popularity fluctuates. Hundreds of new wedge designs come out each year, depending on trends.
Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo created the wedge shoe. He designed the orthopedic wedge in 1935 and the wedge heel in 1936. Ferragamo used cork and wood because of a leather and rubber shortage. Cork was more popular than wood because it was lighter. The cork sole was also sturdy and durable.
World War II
Wedges grew in popularity during World War II because of the lack of leather and rubber available in the United States. Leather and rubber were needed for the war effort. The fashion of the time called for height. Wedges offer height and are easier to walk in than skinny heels. Shoulder pads added to the illusion of height. Wedges reached up to 5 inches during this time period.
Wedges resurfaced in the 1970s. Designs were louder, more colorful and outrageous. One design even allowed for a goldfish to live in the heel. Men and women wore platform wedges, unlike during World War II when it was strictly a women’s fashion.
Wedges came back in style in the 1990s. Wedge sneakers first appeared in raves, then moved on toward the rest of the world. Both regular platform sneakers and wedge platform sneakers existed. These high wedge sneakers could be seen on celebrities like the British pop band the Spice Girls.
The wedge returned in the summer 2006. Heels made of cork and wrapped in rope were one style option. Both straps and ankle wraps were choices to secure wedges to feet. Flip-flop wedges, with a small heel, combined the two popular styles.
Women wear heels to make the legs look longer, to make the body look thinner and to improve posture. Wedge heels offer more support than stilettos or high heels. Balance is easier on a wedge, reducing the number of falls that accompany high heels. Wedges offer more arch support, reducing foot and ankle problems.
References and ResourcesThe History of Gucci
Shoes Talk: The Colorful History of Wedges and Flats
Wedge Heels Lead Summer Shoe Parade
ResourcesPlatform Shoes of the 1990s
Details in Women's Designer Shoes