Semmelhack is a museum curator who has been studying the high heel for a decade:

Collectors Weekly: What caused men to shy away from high heels?

Semmelhack: One of the things that developed during the 1600s, and that really took hold in the 18th century, is Enlightenment thinking, which posited that men were innately rational regardless of their social stature. All men could be educated, and once a man, even a man of the lower social classes, was educated, he could participate in government, he could participate as a citizen. Some of the seeds of the American Revolution and the French Revolution were sown by this way of thinking, this idea of enfranchisement for all men.

As this philosophy evolved, a dichotomy developed—men were deemed rational and educatable; women were irrational, sentimental, and uneducatable. Dress became an expression of these two different modes of gender-specific behavior. Men began to wear more dour clothing. They gave up makeup and highly ornamented clothing and heels. Those accoutrements became signifiers of femininity—especially the high heel, since it’s an irrational form of footwear, unless you are on a horse. So it became associated with femininity, and then was eventually linked to female desirability.

hat tip: Manolo’s Shoe Blog. There’s more on lingerie and the connection between fashion and erotica that is quite interesting.
And I can’t figure out how to embed a picture, but please also see this XKCD cartoon.

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