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Why not Manolo?

February 6, 2011

Français : escarpin "peep toe" Chris...

Français : escarpin “peep toe” Christian Louboutin en cuir métallisé verni, talon de 140mm, modèle “Altadama” (semelle rouge) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the tube this morning, a lady got on at Bond Street wearing that ever more familiar red-soled shoe. I thought the shoe looked rather cheap, another of those black patent leather stilettos with a concealed platform and slightly too thin a heel for such a chunky front. Of course, being so evidently made by Christian Louboutin, it was anything but cheap. I read an interview with him once, and he came across as some bloke from the Parisian banlieues, with no sense of style or history, but a very good idea of how to create a trademark. The red sole is a trademark that allows the wearer to advertise just how expensive their taste is, while stopping short of actually stencilling a label on their stuff – because of course that would be tacky. His shoes are like those barrow boy city traders, who shout a lot and wear pink shirts with silly stitching details on the cuffs, and high collars, which they wear without a tie, as if pretending they are not absolutely passionate about making money, in the way that only people who have grown up without any can be.

The female equivalent seems to be the kind of woman that looks pleased with herself in the red soles; advertising her success (or her lover’s, I supppose) to the world. She doesn’t actually particularly care for the shoe, and looks as if she whips them off the instant she walks through the door, to be replaced by Uggs or some other hideousness.

I  find the meek submission to a status brand so irritating. Manolo Blahnik on the other hand seems to make original shoes that don’t actually scream their price tag. They are beautiful, and he manages to say philosophical-sounding things about fashion. None of his designs look the same, only the similar shape of the heel on all of them gives a slight hint. By now both brands are probably owned by the same holding company, so all I’m really objecting to is the conformity of the design – and the misguided kind of people who think blowing a month’s rent on a pair of stilettos is somehow aspirational or empowering or “retail therapy”.

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