YOU'RE PUTTING ME ON!
The history of some modern wearables.
WHAT A HEEL: In the 1600s, Louis XIV of France added a few inches to the heels of his boots because he was so short. To his annoyance, he started a lad in the Royal Court-soon everyone was wearing elevated heels. So he made his even higher. And so did everyone else. This went on until it got ridiculous. Eventually, men's heels got smaller-but women's stayed high. In the 1800s, American women copied the styles of Paris, and high heels-called "French heels" at first-became a part of American fashion.
TIES THAT BIND: The necktie fashion originated with a band of Croatian soldiers who showed up in France in the mid-1600s. Part of their uniforms were fancy scarves made of linen or muslin; and this looked so impressive to the French that they began wearing fancy linen scarves themselves. They called the scarves cravats. Meanwhile, King Charles II of England picked up on the fashion-and when cravats became part of his daily wear, the rest of England followed. Over the next century, the cravat evolved into the modem tie.
SNEAKING AROUND: The modem sneaker was introduced in 1917, when the National India Rubber Company came up with Peds. Or at least, that's what they wanted to call their new shoe. It turned out that the name Peds was already registered; so they quickly changed the name to Keds (with a K for "kids"). The original sneakers had black soles and brown tops, because those were the popular colors for traditional men's footwear.
TUX & ROLLS: Pierre Lorillard IV, scion of the tobacco company, lived in Tuxedo Park, N.Y. In 1886, he decided he was sick of the formalwear of the day, and had his tailor make suits without tails. In a daring move for Victorian high society gent, he planned to wear one of these scandalous suits to the annual Autumn Ball. But he chickened out at the last minute. Instead, his son and his son's friends wore the suits. No scandal here; since the Lorillards were rich, everyone copied them. The outrageous suit became a fashion. It was even named for its birthplace. And a century later, the tuxedo industry is grossing a half a billion dollars annually.
WRANGLING AROUND: The Blue Bell Overall company was the largest manufacturer of denim bib overalls in the world, but after World War II, they wanted to expand-and decided to add blue jeans to their line of clothing. The name they picked for their new product was Wrangler. At first, since Levi-Strauss had the better stores all sewn up, Blue Bell sold its Wranglers only to discount chains, like J. C. Penney's. But eventually they hired Hollywood stars to plug the jeans, and they became as fashionable as Levi's.
STRAIGHT-LACED: The shoelace was invented in England in 1790. Until then, shoes were always fastened with buckles.
MADE IN THE SHADES: According to Gene Sculatti, in The Catalog of Cool: "The first sunglasses were made in 1885 in Philadelphia. Seeking an alternative to costly amber and micalens glasses, an experimenter simply put small circles of window glass out in the sun, exposing them to several summers' rays." Sunglasses were popular, but weren't faddish until the '20s, when a bankrupt French comb manufacturer began turning out an assortment of bizarre sunglass frames, trying to find something people would buy. They were shaped like "peacocks, butterflies, pistols, wings, masks, etc. These were gobbled up by the international pre-jet set of the '30s, and soon became true 'trinkets of the bourgeoisie.' " Since then, luminaries like Jackie O., Elton John, Marcello Mastroianni, Audrey Hepburn, and even Barry Go Id water have kept them stylish.
NEHRU WOULD BE PROUD: The Nehru jacket was popularized-briefly-by Johnny Carson, who wore it on TV in the '60s.