Shop Talk: How Pretty Is “Expensive?”

Shop Talk: Where We Talk About Everything Retail

While reading a feature in a magazine on Christian Louboutin’s 20th anniversary of making beautiful shoes, I came across an interesting sound byte about the origin of Louboutin’s red sole. Essentially, he created a yellow pump with a pointed toe and a flower embellishment on it, and while lamenting its black, boring sole, he reached for his assistant’s red nail polish and transformed the sole into something that was just as important as the shoe, itself. Huh. Neat idea, right?

I was going to show you a picture of the yellow, vividly-1980s shoe, but it is virtually impossible to find a photo of it online… which kind of adds to the conversation I started to have with myself in my head:

Would Louboutins [or any high-end designer shoe] be as popular and coveted with a basic, boring, black sole?

Have you ever seen Christian Aguilera’s closet? If the shoes were facing inwards on their shelves, it would be a sea of red soles. I have a hard time believing that those with the means to acquire all of the shoes in the world would rather only wear one brand of really expensive shoes, exclusively. Let’s be real – obviously 33% of the fun in having a pair of Louboutins is crossing your legs and- Oh! Yes, that is a red sole and yes they are totally real. OMG, like, I know, right?…

Photo from InStyle Magazine

So… what would Christina Aguilera’s (and 75% of the rest of Hollywood/NYC) closet look like if Louboutin had never grabbed that nail polish? Would the shoes still sparkle enough for them to charge $2,000 for a pair of leather pumps?

Several celebrities have more variety in their wardrobes – with a little Chanel, Alexander Wang, and Dior thrown in for good measure… Every time they step out, they’re wearing the latest coveted piece of unattainable design history. This makes sense – they’re loaded, they have the ability to acquire foot art and mingle with the creators… but damn – hasn’t J.Lo ever seen a pair of Seychelles that blew her mind!? It happens to me like once per week!  I have to think about cost efficiency here: were I banking a cool 14 million per year, would I be snatching up every shoe from DSquared2’s latest collection? Or would I be buying 560 pairs of high-quality, durable, mid-range shoes and rocking them daily… just like I am now?

If you guessed the latter, great job – you’re on the right website.

We had a discussion on our Facebook page last week, where Poochie from Shoe Daydreams gave us some really good perspective (and who better to offer insight than Ms. Shoe Collection, herself?) on the price and marketing cocktail that is the designer shoe industry.

I think most designer shoes have gone up way too much in recent years. Personally I don’t care about the red sole (unless it looks particularly good with the overall design) to pay more for it. If anything, a better question is to ask would they be this expensive without SATC or Hollywood?

[Celebrities] were wearing [designer shoes] when shoes were $300 or so. Literally in the past 5 – 10 years I’ve seen the “average” designer price go from $300/$500 max to $1000+. The $1000 range was super rare. Now shoes that I used to pay $300-$500 for are now (for the exact same brand and style just different material version) are going for $700+.

For example, the Manolo Blahnik Sedaraby d’Orsay style. I have that in 4 versions. The first pair were around $500-ish. The ones I got recently (in a boucle fabric) were over $700. Yes, I bought them so I’m part of the problem too, but I’ve cut way back in what I’m buying. So while my total budget may be the same the number of shoes I am getting is way down.

What do you think?

Do you think designer shoes would be less popular if they were more attainable? Would Louboutins be as drool-worthy with basic, black soles?

  • It seems to me that a lot of people like to parade how much money they have spent on their clothes, personally, I avoid big designer labels stitched on the front of a dress or belt. The red sole is just another even more obvious way of showing that you can afford to splurge on accessories.

  • With so many rip-offs, sole treatments and new colors on soles by different brands, I’m preeeeety sure the red sole is going to lose its luster in a few years.
    Personally, I could care less about the color of a sole. They’re going to get wrecked anyhow and I’m too conscious about colors coordinating. The red sole would get in the way all the time.
    The less expensive brands are doing more innovative (but walkable) designs these days too. I’m with you on that!

  • I have to admit that i’ve always yearned for a pair of red soled shoes. Granted, I also like the designs that Louboutin comes up with. With that said, they aren’t particularly UNIQUE and no I doubt they would be as popular if they weren’t such a readily visible status symbol.

  • Im pretty sure no one would care as much as about them if celebritities were not rocking them religiously. I have to confess, I am a fan of many of the Louboutin styles but, not enough to spend that much money on some shoes. Love the red bottom as it would still be awesome fashion statement regardless of the outfit, or the designer.