French designer Christian Louboutin — he of your christian louboutin Melbourne — is about to appeal a recent New York City Court decision that allows rival company Yves Saint Laurent to go on its unique scarlet-soled pumps. Louboutin had his signature trademarked in 2006, although the decision could ultimately change that, permitting legions of copycats to take advantage of the red sole’s se-xy appeal.
The situation has caused a bit of confusion within the fashion community. (Can’t YSL find another color — say, yellow — without taking Louboutin’s signature?, they ask.) For Louboutin, who has painted the soles of his shoes red since 1992, red implies sensuality — and functions as a crafty, subtle branding tool. “I selected the colour because it is engaging, flirtatious, memorable and the color of passion,” he told The New Yorker in March. But red also carries connotations of wealth and power, especially in the reputation of fashion and footwear. Its potent symbolism and strange history give some insight into why it remains this kind of attractive color for shoe designers — and why they are prepared to battle in the court over its use.
In Western societies, red long served as being a symbol of ferocity and power, worn by soldiers, monarchs, the papacy and other important figures. The Traditional Greeks and Romans carried red flags in battles, so that as late as the 1800s soldiers wore red in the field in an effort to intimidate their enemies. In their book The Red Dress, fashion historian Valerie Steele describes how Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy arrived in Paris in 1406, victorious and wearing “a red velvet suit lined with grey fur and worked over with gold foliage” — a sign of his power. It’s a tactic containing remained well-liked by executives and politicians: Think of the Wall Street execs from your ’80s because of their red suspenders or ties, or Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi within their red “power suits” today.
Red also signified privilege: Red dyes were costly to produce, so only those with power and status can afford to put on them. (Chinese People claimed that red dye was developed of dragon’s blood — imbuing the hue with rare magic.) Many European societies imposed sumptuary laws, which dictated what certain social classes could wear, and red was often restricted to princes or nobility. (Among the people’s demands in the Peasants’ Revolt in Germany in the 16th century was the ability to wear red, and, of course, french Revolutionaries adopted the colour as a symbol of rebellion.)
One particular mark of class distinction was the red-heeled shoe, which aristos began sporting inside the 1600s. Charles II of England wore them; a 1675 portrait of him implies that his louboutin Melbourne had not just red heels but red soles also. Nevertheless it was Louis XIV of France who made them the “it” item among Europe’s monarchs. Red heels were extremely important for the Sun King which he passed an edict stating that only individuals the nobility by birth could put them on. According to Philip Mansel’s Dressed to Rule, the painted heels showed that nobles did not dirty their shoes. In addition they established that their wearers were “always willing to crush the enemies of the state at their feet.”
The French Revolution banished the “Louis heel,” although other European nobility continued wearing them, for example the English. But red shoes would resurface again — in culture as well as in fashion. Hans Christian Andersen used the red shoe as being a symbol of wealth and vanity in the morality fairytale The Red Shoes. Clearly, he shared french Revolutionaries’ distrust of red footwear. Fashion illustrations from your 1920s and ’30s, however, depict rouge heels much less symbols of class oppression and power, but of fun and coquetry. A drawing from your 1920 catalog on the Fashion Institute of Technology’s archives in The Big Apple shows a slim, elegant woman in the fur-trimmed coat and cloche hat wearing adorable black shoes with red heels. The surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous “shoe” hat — an upside-down shoe worn on one’s head — had a shocking-pink heel.
The 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz swapped Dorothy’s silver shoes within the book for ruby slippers, which in fact had red soles. Dorothy’s slippers not simply conveyed magic and whimsy, they also gave her confidence and said something regarding the transformative power of fashion — or of the particular accessory or garment.
Recently, red soles have brought glamour and s-ex attract the shoe. Valentino Garavani, the perennially tanned and fabulous Italian couturier, has intermittently produced red-heeled chr1stin since 1969 to choose his famous elegant red gowns. (The hue he uses, an orangey rouge, is frequently called “Valentino red.”) From the 1970s, Yves Saint Laurent — known for his gender-bending, se-xy fashions that empowered women — established the monochrome shoe, which is entirely one color — from your leather upper for the inside towards the heel and also the sole. YSL produced purple, blue and, yes, red monochrome shoes during the entire ’70s and ’80s. Another famed shoemaker, Charles Jourdan — under whom Louboutin apprenticed in the ’80s — also painted the soles of his louboutin shoes Sydeny.
Today, a flash of any red sole not just screams “Louboutin” — furthermore, it reveals something regarding the wearer. She actually is, like her Medieval and Renaissance precursors, well-off or upwardly mobile. (Louboutin’s shoes cost between $400 and $6,000.) The red makes her feel powerful (like John the Fearless or YSL’s women), along with s-exy and perhaps even naughty. In the profile from the shoe designer, the brand new Yorker known as the red soles “a marketing and advertising gimmick that renders an otherwise indistinguishable product instantly recognizable.” Yet for most designers and consumers — as well as, probably, for Louboutin — the red sole is far more than that.