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Stiletto heels and knives

Stiletto heels and knives converge in my latest book to provide danger and sexual innuendo for my characters. Both meanings capture people’s imagination and transport them to an erotic trance or fear from a warrior assassin. Interesting that sometimes both sensations can be the result of either of these objects. High heels and stiletto knives go back hundreds of years though stiletto heels are a more recent phenomenon.

In the Middle ages stiletto knives were used by knights to penetrate the armor of opponents. A mortally wounded combatant might receive a “coup de grace” to end his suffering. Sharp, thin stiletto knives were first used in Italy some five hundred years ago. These were long slender blades with a honed point used for stabbing. The name comes from the Latin, stylus, a pointed Roman instrument used for writing and engraving wax.

The stiletto later became the favorite weapon of assassins since it could be easily hidden in clothing and did not cause a lot of bleeding due to its small entry wound. Some countries and cities including New Orleans later banned its use or sale because of the number of stabbings. Stilettos were a favorite weapon in Sicily as evidenced by its own instruction course - the Sicilian School of Stiletto Fighting.

During World War I stiletto - like knives were used so often in the trenches that they became known as “Trench knives” In World War II stiletto knives were used as combat knives for commando forces. More recently stilettos have been modified to have a switchblade function - most side opening but some telescoping and locking. Stilettos continue to be popular among knife enthusiasts and though a good many are still manufactured in Italy, American and Russian models are popular as well.

Stiletto heels, named after the stiletto knives, are a much more recent pop cultural innovation starting back in the 1930’s and exploding more in the 1950’s. Platform shoes were worn back over five hundred years ago by prostitutes in Venice but likely the first documented high heels were worn by Queen Elizabeth I. Monarchy clearly has its privilege, and the most recognized wearer of red high heels in history was Louis XIV, though I’m not sure what the significance of the red meant. The French influence in high heels continued with Pompadour heels named after Madame de Pompadour, the mistress to King Louis XV.

High heels seemed to die out for a while in the 17th and 18th centuries but again gained popularity in the 1850’s with the use of brass heels. Narrower heels evolved with other materials and construction and in the 1900’s a center steel core allowed the first stiletto heels. Christian Dior helped develop the stiletto heels after World War II and Roger Vivier perfected the ultra high heels which became iconic to the fashion world in the 1950’s. Since then they have not been as popular but certainly carry allure and definite seductive appeal. Clearly they can add three to four inches in height and accentuate a woman’s figure.

Wearing any high heels and especially Stiletto heels can cause foot and leg pain and puts the foot in a nonfunctional position. In addition, the pressure of the heel on some surfaces can cause actual damage to wood and soft flooring. Still there are some women willing to put up with those downsides and a segment of the male population that appreciates their efforts. I guess both stiletto heels and stiletto knives remain dangerous in their own way.

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