The New Yorker profiles Christian Louboutin but not the shoe.
So what’s the story with the red sole? In 1993 he had designed a pink shoe with a black sole, thought something was missing. He took the nail polish away from his assistant and painted the sole.
Does the red sole change our relationship to the shoe? What does the same shoe with a black sole lack?
The red serves several purposes. It is, of course, a distinctive marker, a brand, “that renders an otherwise indistinguishable product instantly recognizable.”
It is an explicit gift to men, a peek, a signal. A woman who wears the show [sic] is telling people she’s taking auditions, and though it’s unlikely she’ll pick you, you’re a fool if you don’t do a cold read. Louboutin said, “this red sole was a bit of a green light.”
It is a gift to the women. “The red soles offer the pleasure of secret knowledge to their wearer,” i.e. lingerie.
They also scuff easily, which serves Louboutin just fine but is itself a code: either you save them for special occasions– hence signaling to others that it is a special occasion– or you replace them often, which signals that you can replace them often, which means you can replace the men as well.
That Louboutin shoes are stiff and uncomfortable is part of the appeal. Louboutin hates the word “comfy.” “You’re abandoning a lot of ideas when you are too into comfort.” But the discomfort is a small price for your body being forced erect, elongated, calves and butt up. And just as importantly the woman knows that, feels the artificiality of it. It is making me sexier. Louboutin, in fact, is uninterested in the shoe as a walking device:
There is a certain height where you just can’t walk with them. But, you know, you can do other things,” he says, not elaborating. “Some shoes are very, very, very high, so they might not be dedicated to walk[ing], but so what.
So what, indeed, she’s not supposed to walk in them, she’s supposed to be seen in them. She has no interest in going anywhere there’s no chance someone might not want to carry her in his arms.
Interestingly, Louboutin hasn’t ever run an ad campaign until 2009, when he ran a series of campaigns showing the shoe as art:
which is the only way to advertise it. But whose shoes are these? Do they belong to a real person? Does the painting reveal their use? No, and it couldn’t. High heels are already sexualized, fetishized, and Louboutins doubly so. In order for them to remain a code for female sexuality they must remain abstract and unattainable. It’s fine to know that Jennifer Lopez was wearing them, it’s not fine to think of them as the shoe Jennifer Lopez wears. They’re not her shoes; she’s their model. Once a fetish becomes linked to an actual identity, it is no longer a fetish.
Just as the sexy nurse fetish survived a whole lot of less-than-sexy nurses, it was killed 0in the 90s by the abrupt appearance of male nurses. Now, nurses are an S&M fetish. The Louboutin can be worn by anyone but can’t be thought of as being worn by anyone; if it’s seen on a commoner (or a man), it has to be seen as incongruous– “what’s she doing in those?”
And so, always abstract. Louboutin even teamed up with Professor of Insanity David Lynch for this NSFW photoshoot aptly titled, “Fetish.” Or Louboutin’s directorial debut “Psycho-logic,” a Psycho remake has the woman killed(?) in the shower by a cloaked man wielding a spiked heel. She crawls across the carpet and dies,(?) waking up to heaven– the Hollywood Louboutin boutique.
Does a woman who wears clogs (which Louboutin hates) feel different when she wears the stilettos? Does she feel under the power of something else? The shoes are drive, they want what they want.
Freud though the fetish calmed castration anxiety by substituting for the missing penis, but Lacan thought it was more subtle: a substitution for the absence of something. There is no penis here, announces Kim Kardsahian, but I’m interested.
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