Platforms are shoes with heavy soles that can range from half-an-inch to six-inches thick and made their first memorable appearance during the 1600s, when shoes with high platform soles called chopines were popular among wealthy women in Venice, Italy. During the 1930s cork-soled shoes with wedge-shaped platform soles became popular among many women, but these shoes were fairly conservative, usually having a platform of an inch or less.
During the 1960s rebellious youth began to wear ragged thrift shop and homemade clothes, which evolved into a very colorful, flamboyant fashion. Clothing manufacturers had caught up with youthful trends and had begun making stylish, flashy clothes by the end of the decade. Wide-leg bell-bottom pants and short skirts were worn with platform shoes, often several inches tall. The platforms of the 1970s were very high, often brightly colored, and made of shiny material or plastic, and, for the first time, both women and men wore them. The new shoes were seen on such popular American rock stars as the members of KISS and British singer Elton John (1947–), as well as in the successful 1977 disco film Saturday Night Fever.
While the new tall platform shoes may have looked good on the disco dance floor, they were not always easy to dance in. Doctors began to call them "ankle busters," because they treated so many injuries caused by platforms. Once they went out of style, many were sure that the impractical shoe would never return. However, after the conservative 1980s came to an end, many people had fond feelings for the styles of the 1970s, and platform shoes came back into fashion by the mid-1990s. In the early twenty-first century some young Japanese women adopted a style that included spiked hair, miniskirts, and tall platform shoes.
Ellsworth, Ray. Platform Shoes: A Big Step in Fashion. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1998.
[ See also Volume 3, Sixteenth Century: Chopines ]