Privilege Blog

Do We Buy Christian Louboutin For Design Or For The Brand?

Remember this? I don’t mean to be coy so let me explain. It’s a Polyvore imagining how I would wear a new Narciso Rodriguez little black dress.

Turns out I wasn’t kidding.

You see, I’m going to New York at the end of next week. To visit my kids, stay in a new hotel, wander through the city looking. (All those dressed up people walking on rough sidewalks past windows.) During said trip, it’s possible that I will need to wear my little black dress. It’s possible that ever since I acquired said little black dress that I have been wistfully remembering matching Louboutin pumps the fab Barney’s salesguy showed me. And it’s possible that I am fortunate enough to occasionally receive generous presents.

Let’s move to the realm of the certain. This is one of my new shoes. I do have two. I promise.

We might ask, why these? Why did they pester me, for months? Design? Brand? What?

The design is absolutely impeccable and reasonably comfortable. I bought a half size up and had them put a pad in. We Sturdy Gals, even when we Grande Dame it up, aren’t a fan of foot pain. Although in my dreams I was wearing what Mr. Louboutin, or his minions, call the Jazz Decollete 100 pump, with a heel height of 3 3/4″, in fact I don’t do heels higher than 3″. Luckily, Mr. Louboutin, or his minions, have deigned to offer similar shoes in the Simple 70. With an internal platform that brings the experienced heel height down to about 2 3/4″.

That internal platform also transforms a plain black pump into a terrible object of desire.

Where to start? It was the lines that did me in. The underside curve from heel to sole juxtaposed against the toe. What they call the “almond” toe. Almond as in fingernails – not pointed, not squared, not round. That same internal platform also creates a snub nose, adding a touch of what in a woman we would call “jolie laide.” The ugly pretty of a sleek brute. Reminds me of a Chrysler 300, another shape that bedeviled me for months and months and months.

Luckily the quality of the shoe matches the hissing yes of the design. Soft kid. Lovely, quirky gold lettering on the instep. A well-made red sole. Yeah, wait. That red sole. A necessary part of the design, but also the brand. The moral equivalent of a logo.

We might well ask, how do we feel about Louboutin’s extremely recognizable red-soled brand? The mythic image of the shoe vs. the actual product? Your mileage may vary. I believe I bought the shoes 80% for the design, 20% for the brand. But it’s a very mixed 20%. Complex. Worthy, I think, of some deconstruction.

  • Did I buy just because they were Louboutins? No. Clearly not. I wanted these shoes, and only these. I searched through 3 stores, passing up dozens of other Louboutins.
  • Would I have bought them if they were not Louboutins? Imagine everything else was the same, even to the red sole, but they had been made by some nameless other Italian shoe manufacturer? Not so clear. Maybe. First of all, how would I have known they existed? How would I have become convinced that only these shoes would make my wardrobe for Manhattan complete? I don’t, all evidence to the contrary, spend that many of my days shopping. But let’s say that fab salesguy had shown me identical nameless Italian shoes. Would I have bought? Maybe. Probably.

However, I wouldn’t have paid over $400. So Louboutin’s savvy non-marketing, with a red-carpet and celebrities platform, has in my case reaped a luxury premium. Why did I think Louboutins were worth more? Damned if I know. A tangle of inferred quality and desirability. Difficult to deconstruct. Perhaps I wanted some Angelina Jolie bruised-mouth glamor to rub off? To feel that I can participate in a trend, even at 53? Or maybe just to buy status? Which brings us to the next question.

  • Do I like the fact that, because of the red sole, everyone knows that I have Louboutins? A flash of yes, and then, no. No. Not really. Which is complicated. I don’t mind people knowing I spend a lot of money on items of clothing and accessories. Evidently. In fact, as I have confessed before, luxury goods assuage some unresolved identity issues.

But I do mind the possibility that people will think I own these shoes just because I want to own a name brand, that I am, in fact, a status wh***e. Because while I may be a status loose woman, so to speak, I want to suffer only the censure I deserve. I wish that the red sole did not so clearly identify the maker. I would like to keep my Louboutin love to myself. To my way of thinking, the Louboutin brand, because it’s so obvious, has in fact jumped the shark. At least the High WASP shark. I would have loved it more two years ago. When only the cognoscenti knew.

  • Will I buck up and cease to perseverate over these issues with luxury goods, as long as I am going to continue to buy them? Good lord I hope so. My new shoes are so beautiful to me that I have one sitting next to me on the sofa as I write. Just to admire the play of light on the leather. Privilege should be enjoyed. Shared whenever possible. Perseverate is the big word of the day. My sister the academic taught it to me.

And with that in mind, I recreated my original Polyvore. Shoes, Christian Louboutin Simple 70 Pumps via Neiman Marcus, Nars Sheer Lipstick in Cruising via Sephora, pearls via my life. Et voila. Manhattan here I come. With Paris, evidently, on my side.

*If I had a little white dress, or a big one for that matter, I’d be wearing these...

56 Responses

  1. There is something about the nuance, last and throat of a CL shoe that gives them a little je ne sais quoi over other brands. Unfortunately, I have wide feet and M. Lou doesn't want wide free in his shoes. Pity because those blush ones are v.v. beguiling.

  2. We just priced some Christian Louboutin shoes on the internet. Once we'd recovered from our heart attack, we decided we wouldn't buy them at all.

  3. I had never heard of Louboutin shoes until I was sitting on the floor at the theatre waiting on the cleaning people to finish up and some ladies next to me ask me if my black booties were Louboutin. They arent. They are thrifted and although they look cool they are terribly painful. :)

  4. My simple pumps are so comfy and I love the look of the shoes! Have a great time in NY! xx

  5. I love these as well, and did some of this perseverating a few years ago, outside the shop window of the Paris Louboutin boutique. My husband offered to buy me a pair for my birthday — he even, darling man that he is, offered to go in and make some enquiries for me in his accented French, of the somewhat intimidatingly-hauteur-ed sales staff. In the end, I decided against for some of the reasons you suggest, but part of me is still not sure that was the right decision. If you're loving yours the way you are, sitting next to them on the sofa, your decision was the right one — enjoy them! They'll look perfect with that dress.

  6. But will you trust the airline with them in checked baggage or keep them in a carry-on?

  7. LOVE THEM! I would love to find a pair that fit my wide foot and then wear them forEVER!

  8. Mater, Sharpie – if you two considered them I am reassured. Tide, good to know yours are comfy. Doc – Hmm. I hadn't thought about that…

  9. You never know, maybe people will think they are a knock-off.

    Something else to factor into your equation?

    [I have a pair of Oh Deer! pumps that more than a few people have thought were CL due to the design and red sole. I did not buy them hoping to pass them off as such; time was short and they were the only shoe I could find that worked for me/with a specific dress.]

  10. I tried on a pair of Louboutin's this week. I really don't like the rounded "almond" toe on my foot – my husband agreed – it just doesn't work for everyone. I went for a pair of Manolo's, my favorite – nice and pointy and so, so comfortable.

  11. LPC
    I love them too. A recent Louboutin convert. Yes, the label and its star pulling power lured me to try them on but they are seriously good heels. I like that even my huge wide feet look somewhat dainty in them.

    I am hankering for some decolletes or the simples with their more practical heel.

    I also love the red soles. So much so that I have tried to preserve the red them by getting special red soles put on them. I pick my re-soled ron rons and hyer prives this weekend.

    Have a lovely weekend!!

    SSG xxx

  12. Love them! So so so so elegant. And Sydney Shop Girl just said the magic phrase:

    I like that even my huge wide feet look somewhat dainty in them.

    I have wide feet and if Louboutins work for me, I'm sold.

    As for the prestige/jump the shark debate, I think the iconic Louboutin is the peep-toe with the four-inch heel, so you've managed to be individualistic even as you jump on a fashion bandwagon. Good for you!

  13. Lovely, perfect. I too love an almond toe, and now you've perfectly articulated the reasons why.

    I'd always assumed that my feet were too wide for Loubie's, until a Neimans sales associate insisted I try a pair a few weeks ago. They were divine, but didn't quite push me over that $500 edge at the time. (Nude patent, open toe, kitten heel.)

  14. The red colour seems perfect to peek out from your sole when navigating the Avenues and Boulevards of the Big Apple. No need to ask directions or offer explanations ….you'll radiate elegance, refinement, confidence and charm! ( Fifth Avenue Chic )

  15. I owned a pair of Louboutins for a week three (almost four) years ago. It turned out that the extra $500 sitting in my account was meant to furnish my new apartment (IKEA), not for new shoes, but the Saks salesman made me temporarily forget. I returned them, unworn, after a week of admiring them. Some day I will get to buy another pair, and keep them this time!

  16. It's lovely to find shoes that you really love. Can you walk in these? I see the heel and think "sprained ankle." You must be more graceful than I am.

    Have fun in N.Y.! I am curious to know why you left the city instead of pursuing another job there. Do you think you will ever go back?

  17. I have a real weakness for Jimmy Choo. I don't think I can pick out just one thing about them: it's the design, the colors, yes the name comes into it a little, it's just everything about them!

  18. Oh, those shoes don#t make me happy, because I am "anal". I see the flaw. Well, at least in my eyes, those shoes are not perfect. My eyes rest on the heel, where I spot wrinkles which should not be there on new shoes. After a year or two, ok.
    Like that it just seems to me as if we pay for the brand, exacty for the brand and not for the quality. If I spend that much money I want something perfect. With absolutely no flaws.
    Probably no one will notice those wrinkles at all.

    Will I ever enjoy consumer-goods – with an attitude like this? I do!
    In my opinion it is ok to call for premium on heels when you pay premium prices. It is a quest! And probably the reason why you find me most of the time in flats.

    I like your question: do I buy it because of the brand.

    On a purse forum someone posted the question: would we buy Louis Vuitton if it was sold for 100$? The majority said "No". I like it, how people who splurge can admit that.

    Interesting, you don't care that people know how much you spent for these shoes, but you do care, what they think in terms of status symbol and brands.
    I am surprised, you attach importance to them.

    I would not be too sure if you don't also like them for being a brand. Such as New York City itself is a brand. Big Apple :-)

    I hope to see some pics from your trip to NYC!

  19. So sorry to comment so late! You have bought yourself some lovely shoes, congratulations! I bet they feel fine to wear too. The model is ageless. Have a wonderful time in NYC!

  20. How interesting that many people have tried Louboutins and decided not, some happily, some with reservations. This was the first time I had ever tried them on. As I said, I don't shop all that often, now that I don't have to show up in an office every day. Deja, I am honored that you think I've articulated something well about style. And Paula, I am not proud that I care what people think. I write it down here thinking that it would be interesting to others, or helpful, but I wish I were more evolved.

  21. Oh, and Toad, I hadn't read the profile. Will go and look now. Thanks for pointing it out.

  22. Oohhh, you nailed it with the status wh***e observation. I want people to think I own something because of my incredible good taste and discernment, not because it has a red sole.

    Enjoy NYC! You will look fabulous and your children will love showing you off. I shall be there this weekend and next visiting my little sister who wears CL and Jimmy Choo shoes, while I stumble along behind her in, well, not them.

  23. An interesting post. I have long considered whether I gravitate toward expensive brands because of the status or design. I must admit, I have decided the latter as of late. When I was younger, it was all about the prestige, and a little rebellious streak against my “don’t wear anyone’s name on your backside” mother. As I have gotten older, I honestly appreciate quality and design. In scanning my local TJ Maxx or DSW I am immediately drawn to a certain item only to discover it is expensive thing on the rack. As an Artsy Cousin, I buy for design and style more than anything these days. Although quality definitely plays a factor. I am totally in love with Proenza Schouler and cannot seem to own enough of their shoes.

  24. Oops… my cut and paste got cut off. The rest of the post is

    … and cannot seem to get enough of their shoes. I would buy them even if they were $10 and offered at Payless if they looked like the same.

  25. Oh those shoes are gorgeous. I would make a shrine of them. My godmother, in the nursing home, lamented that her daughter had gotten rid of all her shoes when she moved out of her house. She talked about a pair of sparkly dancing shoes she worn as a teenager and still had at the age of 90. "I miss my shoes," she said. The right shoe can bring back so many memories.

    As far as paying that much for shoes: shoes are like mattresses. You get what you pay for. Things aren't better because they are more expensive, they are more expensive because they are better. Buy cheap shoes and you will cry and hobble your way home.

  26. The shoes are beautiful. I hope this doesn't sound too stalker-ish, but I am in Midtown during the work week and would be delighted to take you out to lunch while your children are at work or school, as a respite from your shopping. (And if there are others in the neighborhood we could have a mini-gathering of the LPC fan club.) I will not, however, be wearing Louboutins.

  27. When I shop I involve all of the senses. I'm definitely attracted to more expensive things because of this. I think most women who closely investigate are. There is nothing wrong with this.

    If one were to see a red sole and whip out the plastic before even considering function, design, etc, then they are clearly a fashion wh**e.

    You are fine. Please enjoy your trip and the lovely shoes.

  28. They are stunning. The lines are classic and you will have them *forever*. (Like the almost-immediate justification, just in case there was any outstanding issue related to the investment value?!)

    It is amazing to see that final image, frankly, it looks like something I would see in a gallery. It's art, pure and simple. As are the shoes. And this post. Can you tell I am all blissed out by all of the fabulosity?

    Utterly outstanding post Miss LPC.

  29. As a woman with problematic feet I fully support splurging on well-made, supportive shoes. They are absolutely stunning. Well done.

  30. Marketing is insidious and it really is impossible to discern between the attraction of design vs the influence of marketing. Such is life that it doesn't really matter so long as money isn't an issue. I love LV and recognize I love it for the status and the marketing (Keith Richards & his LV), money isn't an issue so c'est la vie.
    Enjoy your new shoes!

  31. Of course, it's for the brand. Very similar shoes can be purchased (red sole and all) for under S50. Exactly the same? No, but certainly a close enough facsimile that would provide the same look in an outfit.
    There isn't anything wrong with it, but it is good to recognize something for what it is. Luxury goods are often purchased to provide inner confidence – YOU know they're the real thing and it makes you feel secure. Right?

  32. Hmm, I like to think I don't buy them just for the name or price, and the truth is I admired them before they became very popular (and am embarrassed this makes a difference to me). I don't buy or wear the really high ones though, my 50-odd year old feet no longer tolerate that well, and I can't afford the limo service.

    I think you made a good choice. They are elegant, and the cut and construction are in a class apart. What makes them special is not the red sole which is now widely copied. Even if people think you bought them for fashion, you know better, and can smile secretly to yourself over that. Good for you, it sounds like you made a good choice.

  33. That is a great idea of buying the half size and putting the pad in- my choos I bought true to size and though they certainly stretch, having a little added cushion would make them even better than they already are!
    The reputation of choos, manolos and louboutins i think lures us in – but I would hope at the price point we are not blinded by just that-I found I was even more uncompromising when buying jimmy choos than in, say, nine west, because the shoe should be exactly what you need it to be.

  34. I appreciate everyone's opinion, whatever it may be. TPP, if I remember, you liked the original Polyvore. I think these shoes just speak to you:). MJ, that is the nicest idea I've heard in ages. This trip is a quick one, leaving Thursday, back on Sunday, and all booked up with family commitments. But I will be back, and would love to have a meetup with whoever is around and interested. I will wear whatever shoes you want me to wear:). Wait. Within reason.

  35. I really loved Louboutin a good few years ago but then they became 'known' for that red flash and then I started to feel that everyone just wanted to get a pair because the 'red flash.' Like you said, it's just a logo for me now. Although I think Louboutin makes a really nice simple work shoe, like the one you purchased I couldn't bring myself to buy a pair no matter its perfect height and non-aggressive almond toe because of that 'red flash.' I've been tempted to get a pair and paint over the red… really, i have. In the meantime, Alaia and Prada make me happy. I'm really just too sensitive about people knowing how much I spent on my shoes and the rest of my wardrobe for that matter. I love luxurious items and I want to not look inexpensive but I don't want anyone to know that I'm conscious about it! haha, I wish i was more, to use your word, 'evolved'!!

  36. What kind of bag (for 5.4' petite lady) would complete this chic outfit? Thank you.

  37. To Anonymous that dislikes the CL's red soles:

    This is not about the soles. It is about high quality leather, fine workmanship and the shoe aesthetics.
    I ordered online Cole Haan's Nike Air Almond Toe Pumps and they feel like wooden shoes…

  38. Anon, about the bag, it depends on the occasion. If it's fancy and you are at someone's house, I'd wear it with a small beaded bag. If you're wearing this out to a restaurant, ideally, some kind of smallish cross body would be good, or to go the other direction and be a little more edgy, a large, squishy, ostrich hobo shape in a dark color. I, of course, will most likely just use my constant LV bag that won't go at all. Wait, maybe you have inspired me to pack my little black beaded number….or at least the black Ferragamo bag that's very simple. Thanks for reminding me.

  39. Enjoy every moment that you enjoy wearing them, they are beauties- and are there not two pairs of shoes? Am guessing the second pair are lower heels?

  40. Perfect inaugural pair! I have yet to take the plunge but not from lack of desire…XXOO

  41. Those are lovely. I have only one pair of pumps (brown) because I find them too conservative for my taste (the brown pumps have a long, pointy toe, which rescues them). Your almond-toe, hidden-platform pumps elevate (ha) these shoes for me into an object of desire. Fine choice.

  42. In all honesty, I feel like his shoes are incredibly comfortable and they really accomodate you as a long-term customer, helping with "shoe" incidents, etc. One of very few brands where you do get what you pay for in a good way.

  43. The design of Christian Louboutin always make people feel so fresh,each season, Christian Louboutin will make full use of their advantages to beautify shoes.
    christian louboutin

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