NEHI `n High Heels
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Cecil Munsey, PhD
13541 Willow Run Road
Poway, CA 92064-1733
Photos / Illus:
* Formally Chero (Cola) and ultimately Royal Crown (RC) Cola
Researched, illuminated and presented
Cecil Munsey, PhD
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INTRODUCTION: Women in short skirts, with bare legs, and wearing high
heels have been the basic elements of some successful advertising for at least 100 years,
An advertising campaign has been described as a series of advertisement messages
that share a single idea and theme that make up an integrated marketing communication
program. Advertising campaigns also appear in different media across a specific time frame.
Promoting the theme of drinking all flavors of NEHI soda pop in bottles, Claud A.
Hatcher – founder of Chero-Cola; NEHI; and RC (Royal Crown Cola) – developed one of
the most important and successful soda water advertising campaigns of the first half of the
20th century. Taking up where he and others left off with a single leg and high heel, his new
idea and theme featured a woman in a short skirt, with attractive bare legs, and wearing high
heels (Fig. 1) and promoting the drinking of NEHI bottled beverages.
(Fig. 1. Nehi Legs Sign)
Most important to the historic advertising campaign, were the high heels. Heels have
been around for thousands of years in one form or another and have played an important
social role in the development of modern man. An intended short history of high heels
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seems an appropriate way to approach the famous and historic NEHI “a pretty girl’s legs”
advertising campaign of the 1920s – 1940s, a feature of this piece.
A brief history of high heels
The high-heeled shoe, or a shoe whose heel is higher than the toe, is often a matter of
discussion. Shoes in general have typically served as markers of gender, class, race, and
ethnicity – and both the foot and the shoe have been imbued with powerful phallic and
fertility symbols as evidenced in the contemporary practice of tying shoes to a newlywed
couple’s car. No other shoe, however, has gestured toward leisure, sexuality, and
sophistication as much as the high-heeled shoe. Fraught with contradiction, heels
paradoxically inhibit movement in order to
increase it, at least in appearance. Standing in
heels, a woman presents herself already halfwalking while at the same time reducing the length
of her step, fostering the illusion of speed while
suggesting the promise of an immanent fall (Fig
2). The higher and more unstable the heel, the
more clearly these contradictions are expressed.
High heels tend to give the aesthetic illusion of
longer, more slender and more toned legs (Fig. 3).
(Fig. 2. High Heel shoes the
illusion of speed....)
They change the angle of the foot with respect to
the lower leg, which accentuates the appearance of calves. They change the wearer's posture,
requiring a more upright carriage and altering the gait in what is considered a seductive
fashion. They make the wearer appear taller. They make the legs appear longer. They make
the foot appear smaller. They make the toes appear shorter. They make the arches of the feet
higher and better defined. They make the lower leg muscles more defined. They make the
buttock more defined.
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(Fig. 3. Walking in high heels)
According to high-fashion shoe websites like Jimmy Choo and Gucci, a "low heel" is
considered less than 2.5 inches, while heels between 2.5 and 3.5 inches are considered "mid
heels", and anything over that is considered a "high heel”.
Precursors to the High-Heeled Shoe
Most of the lower class in ancient Egypt walked barefoot or in sandals
(Fig. 4), but figures on murals dating from 3500 B.C. depict an early version
of shoes worn mostly by the higher classes. These were leather pieces held
together with lacing that was often arranged to look like the symbol of
“Ankh,” a symbol that represents life (Fig. 5).
(Fig. 4. King Tut's golden slippers [1324 BC])
(Fig. 5. Ankh)
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But there are also some depictions of both upper-class males and
females wearing heels, probably for ceremonial purposes.
Egyptian butchers also wore heels for more practical purposes – to
help them walk above the blood of dead beasts.
In ancient Greece and Rome, platform sandals called kothorni, later
known as buskins in the Renaissance, were shoes with high wood or cork
soles that were popular particularly among actors who would wear shoes of
different heights to indicated varying social status or importance of characters.
In ancient Rome, the sex trade was not illegal and their high heels readily
identified female prostitutes.
Formal Invention of High Heels as Fashion
The formal invention of high heels as fashion is typically attributed to
the rather short-statured Catherine de Medici (1519-1589). At the age of 14,
she (Fig. 6) was engaged to the powerful Duke of Orleans, later the King of
France. She was small (not quite five feet) relative to the Duke and hardly
considered a beauty. She felt insecure in the arranged marriage knowing she
would be the Queen of the French Court and in competition with the Duke’s
favorite (and significantly taller) mistress, Diane de Poitiers (Fig. 7). Looking
for a way to dazzle the French nation and compensate for her perceived lack
of aesthetic appeal, she donned heels two inches high that gave her a more
towering physique and an alluring sway when she walked. Her heels were a
wild success and soon high heels were associated with privilege.
(Fig. 6. Catherine de Medici)
(Fig. 7. Diane de Poitiers)
Mary Tudor, or “Bloody Mary,” another monarch seeking to appear
larger than life, wore heels as high possible (Fig. 8). By 1580, fashionable
heels were popular for both sexes, and a person who had authority or wealth
was often referred to as “well-heeled,” a saying still used today.
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(Fig. 8. Mary Tudor)
(Fig. 9. KIng Louis XI of France
famous for his red high heels)
In the early 1700s, France's King Louis XIV (Fig. 9) (“The Sun
King”) would often wear intricate heels decorated with miniature battle
scenes. Called “Louis heels,” they were often as tall as five inches. The king
decreed that only nobility could wear heels that were colored red (les talons
rogue) and that no one's heels could be higher than his own.
(Fig. 10. Marie Antoinette 1783)
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Like the corset, high heels sculpted the body to make it appear
supposedly more aristocratic, pure, refined, and desirable. The Puritans in the
New World also noted the desirable and sexual nature of the high heel. The
Massachusetts Colony even passed a law banning women from wearing high
heels “to ensnare a man” or they would be tried as a witch. It wouldn’t be
until the mid 1800s when American would catch up to Europe shoe fashion.
French Revolution and the Revolt against High Heels
In 1791, the “Louis” high heels disappeared with the revolution, and
Napoleon banished high heels in an attempt to show equality and to make him
appear taller than he really was.
Despite the Napoleonic Code against high heels, in 1793 Marie
Antoinette (Fig. 10) went to the scaffold to be executed wearing two-inch
The heel lowered greatly in the 1790s until it was reduced to the
‘merest’ wedge or replaced by a spring heel, which was a single layer of
leather inserted just above the sole at the back of the shoe. These flimsy shoes
were often worn with ribbons to cross and tie around the ankle, reminiscent of
the classical Roman sandal. [The demise of the heel at that time made it
easier for shoes to be made for left and right feet, making them more
comfortable.] From this 1790s period to the 1930s, there were four major
types of heels used on Western woman’s shoes: the knock-on, stacked, spring,
and the re-emergence of the Louis or mid-to-high heel.
High-Heeled Shoes Rise Again
In the 1860s, heels as fashion became popular again, and the invention
of the sewing machine allowed greater variety in high heels. In Victorian art
and literature, cartoons and allusions to tiny feet and the “affliction” of large
feet (thought to be typical of the elderly spinster) were everywhere.
Victorians thought that the high heel emphasized the instep arch,
which was seen as symbolic of a curve of a woman. The high instep was also
seen as preeminently aristocratic and European, while the “lowest type of
foot,” supposedly that of the African American, had little or no instep.
When high heels made their comeback, some wearers were
comfortable in five- or even six-inch heels.
As with corsets, high heels were claimed to be not only harmless, but
beneficial to the health because, as advertisers stated, high heels helped
alleviate backaches and stooping and made walking less tiring.
But critics cited that high heels created a more sexually aggressive gait
and compared the high heel to a “poisoned hook” to catch an unwary male.
Some even associated the high heel with the cloven hoof of a devil or a
Cautionary tales from this time, such as many versions of Cinderella
(Figs 11 & 12), concerned themselves with foot fetishism and warnings
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against fashionable foot compression. The story line has her as an exploited
servant by her family but enabled by her fairy godmother to attend the royal
ball. She meets and captivates Prince Charming but has to flee at midnight,
leaving the prince to identify her by the mid-heeled glass slipper that she
(Fig. 11. Cinderella)
(Fig. 12. Cinderella foot fits in the
tiny glass high heel slipper)
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Even with this criticism, America opened its first heel factory in 1888.
However, America and other European countries still largely imitated French
Twentieth-Century Heel Roller Coaster
While high heels enjoyed widespread popularity in the late nineteenth
century, early twentieth-century women demanded more comfortable, flatsoled shoes – that is until the “roaring twenties” when higher hemlines
encouraged visible, elaborate, high, slender “Louis heels” (Fig. 13).
The Depression during the 1930s influenced Western shoe fashion as
heels became lower and wider. Hollywood, however, gave the new heel an
elegant look and stars’ shoes like Ginger Roger’s white and glittery heels
began to challenge the influence of French shoe fashion in the West. In the
1940s, luxury items were in short supply due to WWII and high heels tended
to stay moderately high and thick.
(Fig. 13. Slender King Louis "Roaring '20s" heels)
French designer Christian Dior in collaboration with shoe designer
Roger Vivier led the revival of Western high fashion in the post-war 1950s.
Together they developed a low-cut vamp (the portion of the shoe that covers
the toe and instep) Louis shoe with a narrow heel called a “stiletto”
(Figs. 14 & 15), which is the Italian word for a small dagger with a slender,
tapering blade. First mentioned in London's Daily Telegram on September
10, 1953, the exaggeratedly slender heel and narrowing of the toe equated
sheer height with chic and strongly suggested phallic-erectile symbolism and
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(Fig. 14. Christian Dior sketch of
woman in stillettos in the 1950s)
(Fig. 15. Stiletto heels)
Marilyn Monroe’s famous “blown up dress” picture in stilettos
(Fig. 16), from the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch,” had a very positive
effect on the sales and the popularity of stiletto high-heels.
(Fig. 16. Marilyn Monroe famous blown up dress picture
from the 1955 film – "The Seven Year Itch")
Sidebars: (a) One of many famous quotes by miss Monroe, this one
about high heels – “I don’t know who invented high heels but all women owe
him a lot.” (b) She was also known to have cut 1/8 inch off one heel of her
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stilettos so that she would walk rhythmically moving from side to side (sway)
and that would enhance her famous alluring walk.
In those days stilettos were sometimes banned from public buildings
because they caused physical damage to the floors.
High heels were also very much a part of the image of “pin-up girls.”
The term was first attested to in English in 1941. Pin-ups (Fig. 17) could be
cut out of magazines or newspapers, or from postcards or chromo lithographs.
Such photos often appeared on calendars, which were to be ‘pinned up’ for
inspirational viewing by the male population.
(Fig. 17. 1950s pin-up girl)
With the creation of the miniskirt in the early 1960s, stilettos were
attached to boots that enhanced the look of bare legs. As the feminist
movement gained momentum, however, stilettos went out of favor with the
cry: “Liberate the captive foot of womanhood!” For many feminists, high
heels indicated subservience and sexual stereotyping by men. High heels
were titillating “man-made” objects, literally involved in crippling women, or
at least slowing them down when the need to run away from male violence
and oppressors arose. Heels were seen as a comparable successor to foot
binding and the tight-laced corset as perverse regulatory objects for molding
the femininity of a woman. Consequently, heels dropped and thickened, and
soon low-heeled shoes with square toes replaced the stiletto. Late 1960s
disillusionment with contemporary life and anxiety about the future led young
people throughout much of the West to embrace the hippie culture that
revived the platform shoe.
Platform shoes became immensely popular in the 1970s, and perhaps
no instance epitomizes the era like John Travolta’s Cuban-heeled platform
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heels in the opening sequence of Saturday Night Fever in 1977. The 1970s in
general were a tumultuous time of experimentation of drugs, sex and, of
course, fashion. Cynicism abounded as various cultures and subcultures vied
for public attention. Men as well as women would dress to shock, often
wearing platform shoes reminiscent of the ancient kothorni and chopine
(Fig. 18) of old, with psychedelic swirls and colors.
(Fig. 18. Chopines from 16th & 17th centuries)
In the post-modern context of the 1980s, the feminist rejection of
fashion started to lose much of its grassroots support. The idea that fashion,
specifically sexy shoes, were not simply oppressive but offered pleasure to
women became more widely accepted. Critics, particularly feminists in the
1980s, argued that fashion can be an experiment with appearances, an
experiment that challenges cultural meaning. This change of heart about high
heels perhaps was provoked by counter-cultural street fashion of the early
1980s (Fig. 19) as well as by feminist debates about pleasure and female
desire, which indirectly changed the way fashion, was understood. Western
women now claimed they were wearing high heels for themselves and that
heels gave them not only height but also power and authority. While lower
heels were preferred during the late 60s and 70s, higher heels returned in the
1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, Manolo Blahnik’s high-heeled shoes
were seen everywhere on the catwalks as new designers started to rethink high
heels. As opulent television shows such as Dallas and Dynasty suggested,
excess was the hallmark of the 1980s. While flat shoes were likely worn in
the corporate culture, more sophisticated designer high heels were still sign of
Yuppie success. While designers who helped create the very tall heels of the
1990s, such as Jimmy Choo and Emma Hope, rode into that decade on this
profitable trend, by the late 1990s heels started to decline once again as the
hippie revival emphasized comfort over fashion.
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(Fig. 19. Red High – Heel Pumps)
Today's Heel Revival
Women in the 21st century have more shoe choices than ever before.
From athletic wear to the 2006 “heelless” high heel from Manolo Blahnik,
women can choose to wear what they want, even hybrid shoes such as
“heeled” tennis shoes and flip-flops. What is certain is that heels have not
disappeared. Today, heels come in many shapes and sizes and can change in a
season. High Heel Pumps (Fig. 20) perhaps could be considered the average
of all the types. Noted for its unique classes, Crunch, a nationwide gym, even
offers a 45-minute “Stiletto Strength” classes that strengthen women’s legs
and calves. Perhaps influenced in part by successful TV and film hits as Sex in
the City and The Devil Wears Prada, some women are even going under the
knife to shorten their toes or inject padding into the balls of their feet to allow
their feet to fit more comfortably into a pair of stilettos. While these may be
oddities of fashion, they gesture toward an exciting array of fashion choices
women have today.
(Fig. 20. Showing legs and stilletos)
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Postscript: “What is the Meaning of High Heels” by Wanda B. Horrell
[There is no denying that women are fascinated with shoes.
Remember Cinderella would never have been married to Prince Charming if
it wasn’t for those glass slippers and poor Dorothy would never leave OZ if
not for those ruby red pumps. Lady Imelda Marcos owned 12,000 pairs and
Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City had her share of shoes, $40,000 dollars
High heels have been around for centuries and have been used for
multiple purposes by both men and women. At one point in time, men stopped
wearing four-inch heels, wigs and makeup and women continued on with the
In a 2007, Consumers Report National Research Center polled 1,057
women and found that women on average own 19 pairs of shoes. Although,
they wore only four pairs regularly while fifteen percent have over 30 pairs of
shoes. Forty three percent of women said they were moderately injured by
shoes and eight percent reported serious injuries from sprains or breaks.]
The historic NEHI advertising campaign
The title of this article – “NEHI ‘n High
Heels” – refers to Nehi, Inc., among the first in
the giant soda pop industry to use high heel’d
leg(s) to promote its carbonated beverages (Fig.
21). The company owned Chero Cola (created
in 1912), NEHI (created in 1924), and became
the Royal Crown Cola (re-created from CheroCola in 1934). Also, Claud A. Hatcher
introduced a larger-than-expected nine-ounce
(Fig. 21. Nehi Leg-bottle sign)
bottle trademarked Nehi, backed by a consumer advertising campaign picturing a bottle of
Nehi beverage along with a pretty girl's legs (Fig. 22), was introduced by Hatcher and
became one of the most famous and successful advertising campaigns of the 20th century. It
has been said that Hatcher had a fetish or at least a fascination for women’s legs and high
heel shoes because on and off from his development of Chero-Cola in 1912 he used them in
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(Fig. 22. Nehi legs & bottle sign)
By the second decade of the early 1900s, numerous entrepreneurs were using the very
popular “legs-in-high-heels” design in and on their advertising materials (Fig. 23). As an
example, Fig. 24 is a 1915 Chero-Cola bottle opener; and Fig. 25 is the first of the leg figural
type to promote NEHI drinks. All three featured the “leg-in-high-heel” motif.
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(Fig. 23. 1928 NEHI catalog)
(Fig. 24. Circa 1915 Chero-Cola leg-shape Chero-Cola bottle opener)
(Fig. 25. Nehi leg-shaped opener)
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Using the same motif is the familiar “Lady’s-leg knife” first offered as advertising
premium in the1929 NEHI premiums catalog (Fig. 26) as item #RO19. Figs. 27 & 28 show
both sides of the knife. [It is important to note that the NEHI Lady’s-leg knife has been
reproduced by the thousands and many times over the years and, therefore, is quite common.]
(Fig. 26. Nehi catalog)
(Fig. 27. Nehi leg-shape
knife opener 1)
(Fig. 28. Nehi leg-shape
knife opener 2)
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In the early 20th century, the advertising logo of NEHI was a picture of a standing
woman’s legs, in which the skirt was high enough to show the stockings a little above the
knee (Fig. 29), suggesting the phrase “knee high” – NEHI.
(Fig. 29. Nehi legs poster)
NEHI bottle caps were also favorite items upon which the “leg-in-high-heel” motif
was employed to promote NEHI products (Figs. 30 and 31).
(Fig. 30. Nehi "leg" cap)
(Fig. 31. Nehi "leg" caps)
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Advertising Campaigns since the 1930s
The NEHI (RC Cola) brand has been marketed through many campaigns. In the
1930s, Alex Osborn with BBDO, a worldwide advertising agency network, created an ad
campaign, in which was included the following slogan: "The season's best." The 1940s
featured a magazine advertising campaign with actress Lizabeth Scott as the face, next to the
slogan "RC tastes best, says Lizabeth Scott". In the 1960s, Royal Crown Cola did an ad
campaign featuring two birds, made by Jim Henson. Nancy Sinatra was featured in two
Royal Crown Cola commercials in her one hour special called "Movin' with Nancy"
featuring various singers in November 1967. She sang, "It's a mad, mad, mad Cola... RC the
one with the mad, mad taste!...RC! " The company was the official sponsor of New York
Mets off and on at times during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A television commercial in the New
York area featured Tom Seaver, New York Mets pitcher, and his wife, Nancy, dancing on
top of a dugout at Shea Stadium and singing the same tune from the Sinatra campaign. In the
mid 1970s, Royal Crown ran the "Me & My RC" advertisements, the most famous
commercial of which featured actress Sharon Stone delivering pizza on a skateboard. Others
featured people in a variety of scenic outdoor locations. The jingle, sung by Louise
Mandrell, which went, "Me and my RC / Me and my RC /'Cause what's good enough / For
other folks / Ain't good enough for me." RC was introduced to Israel in 1995 with the slogan
"RC: Just like in America!"
NEHI ‘n Leg Lamps
The leg lamp (Fig. 32) is an actual illuminated device that is shaped like a woman’s
leg with or without fishnet stocking and high heel. It first materialized in the 1983 film “A
Christmas Story” (Fig. 33) but its creation came a few decades prior.
In Jean Shepherd’s 1966 book, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, “ he included
a story called “My Old Man and the Lascvious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of
Pop Art.” This was the first mention of the leg lamp.
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(Fig. 32. A Christmas
Story Leg Lamp)
(Fig. 33. christmas-story)
Shepherd was inspired by an advertising logo by NEHI that featured a woman’s legs
with stockings up to the knee. In his story, it was a contest from NEHI that awarded his
father with the leg lamp.
Gamman, Larraine. 1993. "Self-Fashioning, Gender Display, and Sexy Girl Shoes: What's at
Stake—Female Fetishism or Narcissism?" in Footnotes on Shoes. Shari Benstock and
Suzanne Ferriss, eds. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
Kunzle, David. 2004. Fashion and Fetishism: Corsets, Tight-Lacing, and Other Forms of
Body-Sculpting. Thrupp, UK: Sutton Publishing Limited.
Mitchell, Louise. 1997. Stepping Out: Three Centuries of Shoes. Sydney, Australia:
Murstein, Bernard I. 1974. Love, Sex, and Marriage through the Ages. New York, New
York: Springer Publishing Company.
Munsey, Cecil. The Illustrated Guide to COLLECTING BOTTLES, pp. 198-199. New
York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1970.
Rexford, Nancy E. Women’s Shoes in America, 1795-1930. Kent, Ohio: Kent State
University Press, 2000.
Munsey ––––––––––––––––––– NEHI ‘n High Heels –––––––––––––––––––––– Page 21
Sherr, Lynn. 2006. Going Under the Knife for the Perfect Pair of Heels. Accessed: March
Swann, June. Shoes. London, England: Butler & Tanner Ltd., 2008.
Turim, Maureen. "High Angles on Shoes." The Shoe in Art, the Shoe as Art. In Footnotes on
Shoes. Shari Benstock and Suzanne Ferriss, eds. New Brunswick, New Jersey:
Rutgers University Press, 1993
West, Janice. "The Shoe in Art, the Shoe as Art." In in Footnotes on Shoes. Shari
Benstock and Suzanne Ferriss, eds. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University
Wilson, Nigel Guy. Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. New York, New York: Routledge.
Accessed: March 11, 2008.
http://www.cecilmunsey.com Nehi ʻn High Heels
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