The wedge heel shoe for women made its debut in the world of fashion in 1938. It was originally designed and created by the Italian shoe designer, Salvatore Ferragamo, who became well-known for his visionary and classic designs in women’s shoes. Farragamo gained his reputation as a shoe and boot designer in the film industry in the 1920’s. As a result of his innovative designs and the quality of his shoes, he was commissioned by both male and female film stars to make shoes for both on-screen performances and personal use. Because of the popularity of his shoes in Hollywood, he became known as “Shoemaker to the Stars”.
Although his shoes were popular amongst the hollywood elite, they were not comfortable. To solve this problem, he enrolled in the Los Angeles University to pursue studies in anatomy, mathematics and chemical engineering. He applied his studies to the design of his shoes and broke away from the way shoes were traditionally made and designed, and began making his shoes, both innovative in design and comfortable to wear. The popularity of his shoes expanded internationally, but the overwhelming demand for his shoes and the inability to meet that demand without the aid of qualified personnel, forced him to returned to Italy. Upon finding qualified personnel in Florence, one of the centers of the Italian shoe industry, he opened a shop of his own and began to expand the production of his shoes.
In the late 1930’s, a shortage of leather and rubber, traditional materials used in shoe making, developed due to the war. Ferragamo began experimenting with non-tradition materials such as straw, felt, cork and wood and incorporate them in designing his brand of shoes. As a result of his experimenting with these non-traditional materials, he created his most noted designs, the wedge and cage heel shoe. He produced the wedge heel with wood or cork as the platform support of the shoe. The cork platform became the most popular because of its lightness in weight and durability. Women, of his era, found the wedge heel much easier to walk in than shoes with a narrower heel and bought this style of shoe, not only for its style but for its support of the foot and the comfort it afforded in walking. Within 2 years of its introduction to the world of fashion, the wedge heel became a classic and popular design in women’s shoes internationally.