and four guys asked me to sign a catalogue,” Stanton proudly boasted.14
But Willie and Stanton were not the only artists and photographers with a fetishistic passion for the stiletto heel, and nor were they the first to express such passions in images and place them in the public domain. Colin McDowell, in Shoes: Fashion and Fantasy, devotes a full page to an erotically suggestive drawing depicting a hapless manservant cleaning the stiletto-heeled boots of a crop-wielding dominatrix. The drawing, c.1930, pre-dates Willie by some fifteen years; it is attributed to “‘Soulier’ (Paul Kamm)”. 15
Continuing in the tradition of “Soulier” and Stanton in particular, is the work of the British fetish artist Sardax, whose imagery, in both black-and-white and colour, evoke often fantastical worlds of female domination. In his 2006 book, The Art of Sardax, stiletto-heeled shoes or boots feature in thirty-eight out of fortyone images in which women are depicted in identifiable footwear.16 Additionally, many of Sardax’s submissive men – all men in his work are submissive – are also depicted wearing stiletto heels.
Photography, a relatively new medium compared with drawing and painting, has already established a rich history of imagery in which high and stiletto heels make a significant contribution to erotic scene-setting. Many fine, early examples of such imagery are to be found in the collection of vintage fetish
photography held by John and Linda DuPret, published in 2001 by the Erotic Print Society.17 Predominantly French in origin, the collection documents a fascinating interest – and trade – in erotic, fetish and BDSM (bondage and domination/ sadomasochism) imagery dating from the 1880s.
The earliest of these photographs do not depict shoes with particularly high heels, although shoes do, indeed, feature in many of them even when the models are not wearing much else.18 Higher heels appear in a shot by one of the few identifiable photographers, Biederer, in the 1900s.19 According to Linda DuPret, Biederer “was the first photographer to ‘formalise’ fetish wear”, including shoes and boots, and “his contribution to the fetish clothing and imagery of today is huge but largely unrealised”. Biederer’s work, the vast majority of it from the 1920s, is well represented in the collection. He “produced the most extreme of the fetish photographic scenarios of the 20s”, and, among others, worked with fetish lingerie designer Diana Slip.20 Some of the most stylised, professional and modern-looking images in the collection are by Biederer, and some very high heels play their intended rôle.21
Images by another Frenchman, Yva Richard, and a German, Franz Rehfeld, as well as many by anonymous photographers, also feature some very high heels – heels that were as close
as the 1920s and, in some cases, the 1930s, could get to the thin, tapering stiletto as we know it today. Thus do these photographers make their pioneering contribution to the fetishism surrounding such heels.22
We should not be surprised at some overlap between the fetish imagery featured in the DuPret collection and the more general erotic imagery produced during the early years of photography, as amply illustrated in a recently published selection of nudes from the Ewe Scheid Collection, one of the largest and most important collections of erotic photography in the world.23 The greatest overlap occurs in those images in which high heels are worn by one or more of the models; it is the heels that take an otherwise typically mainstream erotic or “saucy” composition and make of it an image falling within the orbit of a fetishist’s appreciation. Indeed, the text in the Taschen selection of nudes from the Ewe Scheid Collection that introduces the section “Saucy scenes” points out that “…works meant to pique erotic fancy resort to the play of the now-hidden, now-revealed, in which shoes, stockings, suspender, scarves and veils, fabrics and fans are indispensable accessories”.24 It is not insignificant that shoes head the list. “Erotic postcards” is the other section where the greatest overlap is seen with the DuPret fetish collection.25 High heels also play a rôle in other images in this section, but, while adding a
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suggestion of fetishism, evoke a style and ambience of more risqué examples of later fashion photography.26
Although high heels have historically occupied a significant place and in some cases literally enjoyed reverence in the fetish world, until after World War Two they were not the ultra-thin, “killer” stilettos we know today. While extreme heels made the occasional foray into pre-war fashion consciousness with innovative and quirky shoes from some of the early masters of twentieth century Western footwear design – such as André Perugia in 1931 with his fishshaped, stiletto-heeled shoe – it wouldn’t be until the mid 1950s that the stiletto heel as we know it would become an everyday sight, first among