Patent Fashions – Changeable heels

Perugia for I. Miller, 1956

Perugia for I. Miller, 1956

In 1956 I. Miller launched a shoe that was engineered to take interchangeable heels. The idea was to extend the wearability of one pair of shoes from day into evening, or for increasing the potential for one pair of shoes to accessorize more than one outfit.

On July 31, 1956 I.Miller & Sons in New York filed for patents 2795866 (designed by French shoe designer Andre Perugia) and 2795867 (designed by New York shoe manufacturer Merwin Zuckerman) for different ways to attach interchangeable heels. The patents were granted for both ideas on June 18 of the following year. Perugia’s idea was to slide the heel onto a track and secure from underneath the sole. Zuckerman’s idea was to use a pin to attach the heel from inside the shoe. Both ideas seemed good on paper but the reality is that changing heels on a pair of shoes requires too much futzing. The FHM has an example using the Perugia version and the heels are only slightly easier to change than the tire on a car.

Tanya Heath - the latest version of adding heels, but different heights create odd looking and difficult to wear shoes...

Tanya Heath – the latest version of adding heels, but different heights create odd looking and difficult to wear shoes…

Not surprisingly, the style didn’t catch on, but every so often the idea is revived by another shoe designer. I have seen two other versions from the 1980s and 1990s, and once again, the idea is being revived, this time by Tanya Heath, with the cardinal error of also trying to offer interchangeable heels of different heights. Shoes are made on a last with a sculpted sole to fit a specific heel height and can not be interchanged for a lower heel without throwing off the balance of the shoe design, and the wearer.

If you want to read more about interchangeable heels, my Italian shoe-friends at The Historialist have found lots of information on the topic.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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6 Responses to Patent Fashions – Changeable heels

  1. Pingback: Manual S. Gutierrez Inventor | Detachable Shoe Heel 1930. | Women's Footwear in America

    • Jonathan says:

      Good catch on finding the Gutierrez patent! I have a pair of shoes from c. 1929-31 with this type of detachable heel but there is no patent number on it that I can find. The problem with this version is that the heel wobbles.

  2. Lauriana says:

    I can see the appeal of interchangeable heels. And the problem.
    Was this not done in the 1920’s? I’ve seen decorated heels from that era on display separately but without any explanation.

    And of course I know about the issue with changing the heel height. Not that that idea is unique either though. My grandmother tells a story from her teenage years in the 1940’s: She grew out of the children’s sizes at a young age and all ladies shoes had heels. So, to give her appropriate new shoes, the heels were cut down. With the obvious silly and uncomfortable result.

    • Jonathan says:

      The 1920s removable heels (usually covered with celluloid and embedded with rhinestones) were often attached with a screw from the inside. What a GREAT story about the heels being cut down for your grandmother!

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