Christian Louboutin: The History of the Infamous Red Soles April 19 2022

I have a feeling if you ask any woman (and probably many men) what designer a red-soled shoe belongs to, there won’t even be enough pause to breathe before the answer—“Louboutin!”—is proclaimed. There’s just something about it, isn’t there? A little flash of bright color, a little hint of sexy—if ever there was a genius brand marketing idea, the red sole is it.

Christian Louboutin—the man behind those famous red bottom soles—was born in Paris in 1963 and raised with his three sisters by his stay-at-home mother and cabinet-maker father, who was often not at home. Beginning in 1980 (after being kicked out of school at age 16), he was awarded an internship first at the Folies Bergeres (a Parisian cabaret music hall), and then for the design house of Charles Jourdan.

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After a brief respite from the world of designing shoes to pursue a career in landscape gardening, Louboutin returned to the fashion world in 1992 when he and two friends formed the company Christian Louboutin. Just four months after the trio opened their first storefront, a journalist from W Magazine in the U.S. flew to Paris on a mission to write about new trends and places in the city—she included Louboutin’s shoes in her article, and the business took off from there. The red soles were soon added to Louboutin’s designs in 1993 after he watched his assistant paint her nails red—he decided to make the soles of his shoes for that season red to make a statement, but his customers loved them so much he decided to make it his trademark. Since then, the line has branched out to include handbags, men’s shoes, and a beauty line. (Side note: have you seen those fantastic nail polish colors in that killer spiked-heel-like bottle? Want. Need.) Louboutin has worked extremely hard to keep his red soles uniquely his own, and with (at least in my opinion), total justification. According to the “Stopfake” section of the brand’s website, they have adopted a zero tolerance policy for the market of fake red soles and have helped with not only cutting down on fake retailers on the internet, but in raids seizing hundreds of pairs of fake Louboutins around the world. They monitor not only online auctions and classified ads, but also work with search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, all our faves), customs officials, and continuously monitor social media outlets to help bring down the bad guys—no messing with intellectual property here! In 2012 the Louboutin brand won an appeal against a ruling that allowed Yves Saint Laurent to manufacture a red-soled shoe of their own—the courts upheld the Louboutin trademark.  Serious Business!

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written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage