Gladiator heels are gladiator sandals that feature a prominent heel, whether in the form of a kitten heel, stiletto, platform, or wedge. The heel resembles the gladiator sandal in every other aspect except the heel, and features the same design first popularized by the ancient Greco-Roman warriors for which the shoe is named. This design resembles a regular T-strap sandal with extra straps winding up the foot and buckling at the ankle or higher. The straps of this shoe are typically fashioned from rattan, leather or suede, but may also be made of plastic or other synthetic materials. Gladiator heels are often decorated with “punk” metal accents such as studs, chains, and extra buckles, as well as more bohemian accents such as beading, leather stamping, and embroidery.
Although the gladiator sandal has gone in and out of style throughout the years, gladiator heels are a relatively unique variation of the gladiator shoe. In the 2008 film, Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw is seen sporting a pair of peep toe “Dior Extreme” gladiator heels as part of over 80 different outfits. The film is said to have started the gladiator heel trend for the new millennium, and Sex and the City’s wardrobe stylist, Patricia Field, is credited with selecting the shoes for the film. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Mary-Kate Olsen, Hilary Duff and Vanessa Hudgens have all been seen wearing these heels.
Several of the world’s top fashion designers have included gladiator heels in their collections. They are also sold at various retail outlets for a fraction of the cost of their designer counterparts. This heel is most often worn with skirts or shorts that are above the knee or shorter, in order to allow ample room to show off the unique style of the shoe. However, the gladiator heel also goes well with pants and a variety of both formal and informal outfits. Certain styles of gladiator heels with a spike heel or stiletto are considered fetish items, due to the combination of the heel and several straps of leather.