stiletto-heel-derivation.jpgThe story behind the term 'stiletto' as applied to shoes is probably one of the better-known footwear derivations, but I'm surprised at how many shoe-lovers I've met who haven't figured out how the infamous skinny heel got its name.

The stiletto was, of course, named after a type of slender dagger of the same name. The name of the knife itself is in turn taken from the Latin 'stylus', meaning a pin or stalk.

The term started being used for shoes as recently as the 1930s, But how can you tell if it's a stiletto or just a plain old high heel? Read on for the official definition!

To be classed as a 'stiletto' a shoe must be at least 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) high and can be up to an eye-watering 25cm (10 inches) in height - Alexander McQueen's perilously high 'Armadillo' shoes are a well-known example of the extreme end of the scale, but more normally the height would be balanced out by a platform. Anything lower than this range is generally referred to as a 'kitten heel' and anything higher - well let's just not go there.

But it's not all about height: strictly speaking a stiletto should be particularly slender (the origial Italian shoes had heels no more than 5cm in diameter) and should be made from a solid steel or alloy, but as fashion has moved on, so has the definition. Nowadays any heel of the requisite height that is relatively slim can be called a stiletto.