• TORONTO, Canada
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  • April 14, 2015

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French or English mid-17th century. Red heel boy’s shoe, buff suede with stacked leather ‘polony’ heel. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum. Photograph credit: Image © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (Photograph: Ron Wood)

Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels opens to the public May 8, 2015

Toronto, Ontario… On May 8, 2015, the Bata Shoe Museum is opening a special exhibition examining the history of men’s heeled footwear from the early 17th century to the present in celebration of the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Drawn from the Bata Shoe Museum’s singular collection—the most comprehensive of its kind in the world—Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels reveals the history, variety, functions, meanings, and significance of heeled footwear in men’s dress over the last four centuries. The exhibition will be on view through June 2016.


Standing Tall features rare examples of men’s heeled footwear from the 17th and 18th centuries, mid‐19th century military boots, and vintage cowboy and biker boots. Exhibition highlights include John Lennon’s original 1960s Beatle boot, platforms worn by Elton John in the 1970s, boots from Mirvish Productions’ musical “Kinky Boots,” and current heels for men.

European men began wearing heeled footwear at the turn of the 17th century. The fashion coincided with the rise of Persia and the increasing European interest in Persia as both a trading partner and as an ally against the Ottoman Empire. Persia had the largest mounted military in the world whose equipment included heeled equestrian footwear. Worn throughout Western Asia for centuries before Europeans became interested in them, equestrian heels helped riders secure their feet in stirrups.

English, turn of the 18th century. Black ‘jack’ leather boot with stacked heel. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum. Photograph credit: Image © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (Photograph: Ron Wood)

“When heels were introduced into Western fashion at the turn of the 17th century, men eagerly adopted them and continued wearing them as expressions of power and prestige for over 130 years,” said Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum. “Even after they fell from men’s fashion in the 1730s, there have been moments of time when heels were reintegrated into the male wardrobe not as a way of challenging masculinity but rather as a means of proclaiming it. From symbols of status to statements of fashion, the heels in this exhibition offer a unique view of how our attitudes have changed over the last four hundred years.” With the advantages of height currently connected to everything from higher pay to increased desirability, a question posed by the exhibition is, why don’t more men wear heels?

In honor of the Museum’s anniversary, in addition to the special exhibition, programming is planned throughout the year including public events, commissioned art installations, performances, lectures, workshops, and more. Included in this stimulating lineup is a major traveling exhibition, The Rise of Sneaker Culture, on view at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, from July 10 through October 4, 2015. Originating at the Bata Shoe Museum (May 2013 – June 2014), and with the American Federation of Arts as a partner, this expanded traveling version of the exhibition explores the complex history and cultural significance of footwear worn by billions of people around the world. 


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About the Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum turns 20 on May 6, 2015.

For two decades, the Bata Shoe Museum has showcased the incredible diversity of what people choose to wear on their feet to reveal intriguing aspects of culture, history, and society. Through its exhibitions, the Museum shares these compelling stories by using footwear as the point of entry into cultures of the world. The Museum examines 4,500 years of footwear history with an international collection of over 13,000 shoes and related artifacts presented in four distinctive rotating galleries. In addition to the popular semi-permanent display All About Shoes, the Museum has three galleries for changing exhibitions. The Museum strives to enlighten and entertain visitors of all ages with engaging programs and activities and a unique gift shop to complete the experience. For every shoe there is a story; discover thousands at the Bata Shoe Museum.

Italian, Ferradini, 1972-1975. Worn by Elton John. Silver and black with rhinestone-covered 7-1/2 inch heel. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum. Photograph credit: Image © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (Photograph: Ron Wood)

For additional information and images, please contact Bow Bridge Communications, New York City, +1 347-460-5566, or

Libby Mark or Heather Meltzer
Bow Bridge Communications
+1 347-460-5566

The Bata Shoe Museum

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