A stiletto heel (AmE: spike heel) is a long, thin heel found on some boots and shoes, usually for women. It is named after the stiletto dagger, the phrase being first recorded in the early 1930s. Stiletto heels may vary in length from 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) to 20 cm (8 inches) or more if a platform sole is used, and are sometimes defined as having a diameter at the ground of less than 1 cm (slightly less than half an inch).
Stiletto-style heels shorter than 5 cm are called kitten
heels. Not all high slim heels merit the description stiletto. The
extremely slender original Italian-style stiletto heels of the very
early 1960s were no more than 5mm in diameter for much of their length,
although the heel sometimes flared out a little at the tip. After their
demise in the mid-late 1960s, such slender heels were difficult to find
until recently due to changes in the way heels were mass-produced.
As a fashion item, their popularity was changing over time. After an initial wave of popularity in the 1950s, they reached their most refined shape in the early 1960s, when the toes of the shoes which bore them became as slender and elongated as the stiletto heels themselves. As a result of the overall sharpness of outline, it was customary for women to refer to the whole shoe as a "stiletto", not just the heel.
Although they officially faded from the scene after the Beatle era began, their popularity continued at street level, and women stubbornly refused to give them up even after they could no longer readily find them in the mainstream shops. A version of the stiletto heel was reintroduced as soon as 1974 by Manolo Blahnik, who dubbed his "new" heel the Needle. Similar heels were stocked at the big Biba store in London, by Russell and Bromley and by smaller boutiques. Old stocks of unworn pointed-toe stilettos, and contemporary efforts to replicate them (ironically, lacking anything like the true stiletto heel because of changes in the way heels were by then being mass-produced) were sold in street fashion markets and became popular with punks, and with other fashion tribes of the late 1970s until supplies dwindled in the early 1980s.
Subsequently, round-toe shoes with
slightly thicker (sometimes cone-shaped) semi-stiletto heels, often very
high in an attempt to appear more slender (the best example of this
being the shoes sold in London by Derber), were frequently worn at the
office with wide-shouldered power suits. The style survived through much
of the 1980s but almost completely disappeared during the 1990s, when
professional and college-age women took to wearing shoes with thick,
block heels. However, the slender stiletto heel staged a major comeback
after 2000, when young women adopted the style for dressing up office
wear or adding a feminine touch to casual wear, like jeans.
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