The Red Sole Speaks Loud and Clear

December 05, 2018


I think one of my New Year’s resolutions will be “no more blogs about shoes” because I’ve written so much about shoes in 2018 (this resolve will probably have a short shelf life and vanish by Valentine’s Day). Why? Because the topic is so multi-faceted: namely, the history of shoes, the designers who create them, retail shoe events, fascinating footwear exhibits and, of course dazzling new and innovative approaches to shoes that are always appearing.

The first time I saw these red-sole shoes the wearer was walking quickly down the street – almost a block away. With every step I saw a flash of red.

Which brings me to this: Christian Louboutin’s red sole that stunned the shoe world. I had never really understood how this came about until I read a fascinating article about him in the Financial Times that appeared in July 21, 2018. The focus of this piece, written by Harriet Agnew, is Louboutin’s fabulous Parisian apartment, but about two-thirds of the way through, she writes about “that famous red lacquered sole.”

Before Louboutin went out on his own, he worked as a freelance designer for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. This was followed by a two-year stint as a landscape gardener in the late 1980s. Then in 1991 he set up his company and opened a store in Paris.


Here is how Agnew describes this remarkable turn of events. “One day he was comparing his colorful shoe sketches with the 3D prototypes. ‘Something was better on the drawing, than on the real shoes, where there was a big, black sole,’ says Louboutin. ‘I noticed that the proportion of black was very strong. But this was not visible on my design. A girl who had been trying on the shoes all day had stopped. She was painting her nails red so I grabbed her nail polish and started to paint the sole. Immediately, it popped exactly like my drawing.’

The rest is fashion history, right? Not quite. Louboutin goes on to say that at the beginning he didn’t really think of keeping the red soles. Nor did he think of trade marking them. He just thought they looked beautiful. This has changed completely. Today, he regularly turns to legal action to defend his signature red soles. In June 2018 the brand won a decisive victory in the European Court of Justice as an intellectual property.

Aretha Franklin bids farewell in her favorite Louboutins

Photo: Courtesy of the New York Post


Louboutin’s business has expanded beyond women’s shoes into men’s footwear as well as handbags, fragrances, and make-up. Christian Louboutin is a privately held company. It doesn’t disclose its financial performance, but it says it’s profitable – it produces more than 800,000 pairs of shoes a year.


When asked this question the designer explains that, over the years he has declined many offers for his business, including one from Bernard Arnault’s LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group by revenue. “You can never say never,” he replies, “but it’s been 27 years and for me it’s an important thing to be free. If you’re not a free person it’s difficult to keep on at the same pace. It’s actually a condition for my sanity and the quality of my work.”


That would take another 600-word blog. Let’s just say that it looks spectacular. Agnew writes that, “He loves his bathroom, where he enjoys a steaming HAMMAM each morning. WHAT? 


Christian Louboutin in his over-the-top gray Italian marble bathroom with its Hammam

Photo: Courtesy of the Financial Times

To me, that sounded like some form of torture so I googled it and read, “A Hammam is a form of Turkish bath. It works in a multitude of ways to promote wellbeing. The thick, wet steam and heat in the Hammam rises to 102 degrees at its peak. It can relax muscles and relieve tension.

Not for me, thank you. Definitely sounds like some form of torture.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick   

2 Responses


December 11, 2018

Fascinating blog, just love the history of the red soles.


December 11, 2018

I wish I could wear the killer shoes 👠They are amazing and the story behind it fascinating thanks

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