If you and I have anything in common, and nothing excites you more than education and high heels you will most definitely enjoy this post.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attended a talk at the Design Exchange in Toronto, with Elizabeth Semmelhack, the Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum. Before I go on, I have to say that at the time the Design Exchange was currently housing hundreds of pairs of stunning shoes designed by Christian Louboutin, featuring a stunning representation of Christian’s work throughout the years. This was the first ever showcase of this magnitude in North America.
Of course if you follow my blog you are already aware that I have a not-so secret love affair with designer shoes, Christian Louboutin in particular. What brought me down to the Design Exchange earlier this week was not only the chance to see some his most infamous designs but also to hear what an expert had to say about a topic I had discussed on this very blog.
“Wear Your Heart on Your Sole” , was my past post about what that shiny red sole means to me. Interestingly enough my thoughts and feelings towards the red sole and the designer stiletto were not far off from what the experts have to say on the topic.
“Flashing Red: Louboutins and the Culture of Desire” was the title of Elizabeth’s discussion, and she brought with her tons of historical knowledge about how the stiletto became popular as woman’s fashion (it was designed for and worn by men originally) and how desire and sexuality became synonymous with the high heel.
One of the most interesting facts discussed that evening, which is complete news to me, was that the heel was not originally intrinsically feminine. In fact, it wasn’t even a symbol of femininity until the 18th Century. Think about how many times you have tried to “sex up” an outfit or “dress up an outfit” by adding a heel. The high heel does wonders for any outfit that is feeling a tad dowdy, and not to mention it elongates our legs to new proportions when paired with a shortened hemline.
So apparently heels were added to shoes to help keep men’s feet inside the stirrups of their horse saddle, well that’s not at all the glamorous story I had envisioned.
But it does raise an important point, that being one of function over fashion. I have always struggled with this when purchasing shoes. Where will I wear these? In what setting will these shoes be appropriate? In fact this was raised by an audience member, and the response was brilliant. Elizabeth answered with another question, what function are you talking about? She believes that “Even the most impractical shoes have a function, even if they are not comfortable.”
Well thank you; for you have just justified many a shoe purchase. I guess my bright orange and yellow strappy, patent Bottega Veneta sandals are practical after all. Even if I have only worn them twice….
See what I did just there? I named dropped, or label dropped I should say. And I know I do that all the time on my blog, but I did it just now for a reason. I have always felt that the act of purchasing a pair of designer shoes is so much more than just an expensive shoe investment. There is an emotional and psychological level to it.
Even Sigmund Freud talked about this, the notion of being “shoe crazy” , that women need multiple pairs of shoes and look at them as an investment and something that requires a great deal of thought. How many times have I referred to myself as “shoe obsessed”? How many times have you said to someone “I’m a shoe girl”, or “Shoes are my thing”.
Designer shoe obsessed chicks; we are in a whole other category. There is a certain allure, and desirability to high fashion. The knowledge that the shoes on your feet are either exclusive, limited edition, or just downright so expensive that you KNOW not many people will be wearing them, this excites us. Well, it excites some of us, I buy into this totally I must admit, although I wait for my designer shoes to go on sale before I buy because I can’t justify $1,000 spent on shoes at this point of my life.
And the exclusivity of a bright red sole, well that’s another level completely. Christian Louboutin has created such a DESIRE for women to own his shoes. There are mob scenes surrounding the opening of his stores (P.S WHEN is Toronto getting one, ahem, I think it’s time!) and his guest appearances. He is on everyone’s list of coveted designers, because he pushes the boundaries of design, but also because he has created a brand that really entices the buyer.
You can’t miss that flash of red sole as it strolls past you, and you can’t help but wonder who that woman is and how she got her hands on that pair of shoes. It’s the privilege that comes with the red sole. As Elizabeth said, “it’s both subtle and shocking”.
If this isn't justification for why I try to keep mine in mint condition than I don’t know what is. But maybe I don’t have to defend my actions pertaining to my Louboutin’s any more, maybe I can remain that illusive woman walking down the street in my beige patent pumps, and of course once I reach my car I will take my shoes off and switch into flip flops, because we all know you don’t drive in Loubs!