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TOP 10: Moments in Louboutin History

It’s undeniable: Christian Louboutin defined luxury footwear in the first decade of the millennium, and as a leader in the industry, he shows no signs of slowing down. By now many of us are familiar with his earliest milestones; after spotting a crossed-out stiletto on a sign in front of the Musee nationale de Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie in his hometown of Paris (pointy heels scratched the wood floors) he became fascinated with beautiful, architectural shoes. As a teenager, he went to work at the Charles Jourdan factory and eventually, he opened up his own shop. But it was one, life-changing decision—to paint the soles of his shoes glossy red to distinguish them—that propelled him into stardom.

Now, Louboutins are a red-carpet mainstay and are coveted by everyone from celebrities, to housewives, to business executives, to teenage girls. Christian Louboutin has conquered the fashion world and the next step for his shoes is icon status. It’s too soon to predict his legacy, but these ten recent moments in Louboutin’s career seem to imply that the brand has become a critical part of the cultural lexicon. —RACHELLE BERGSTEIN 

10. Danielle Steel: Collector (2010)

To many of her loyal readers, Danielle Steel’s novels represent a romantic ideal and provide insight into a particularly indulgent lifestyle. So when Louboutin revealed that the internationally bestselling author owns over 6,000 pairs of his shoes, it made headlines: red-soled stilettos are the drug of choice for a woman who knows luxury. Steel is said to fly all the way to Paris to get her fix, and at least $600 a pop, we can estimate that she’s spent $3.6 million on shoes alone—and that’s before airfare.

 

 

9. Obsessed with Louboutins (2009)

Remember the 2009 thriller starring Beyonce that was supposed to be a sexy new take on Fatal Attraction? We barely do either, with the exception of one moment; when Lisa (played by Ali Larter), the deranged would-be homewrecker obsessed with her boss, breaks into his house and makes her way up the stairs, she’s wearing a pair of Louboutins. Shot from behind, her red soles wink at the camera and underscore her resolve. Since then, the Louboutin on screen has come to suggest a powerful, independent woman with sex appeal (mental illness and moral bankruptcy optional).

 

 

8. Life is a Cabaret (2012)

Louboutin has been upfront about the relationship between stilettos and sex; just this March, he debuted a pair of dainty, nude pumps that spell out S-E-X when the right and left toe boxes are aligned. He’s designed shoes for The Crazy Horse—a famous Parisian burlesque club—before, but recently he collaborated with the owners to direct four montages in the original show Feu, meaning “fire”. Super-hot queen-of-the-striptease Dita Von Teese came out to support her friend at the premiere, offering her burlesque stamp (kiss?) of approval.

 

 

7. Lively for Louboutins (2010)

Speaking of friends in high places, the gossip after an NYC invitation-only sample sale was that primetime bombshell Blake Lively left with 40 pairs.  It was the start of a beautiful friendship: this February, rumor has it that Louboutin sent Lively his entire Spring collection. The two BFFs have been photographed together on various red carpets, and Louboutin honored Lively with an extraordinary compliment: he named a pair of his heels “The Blake”.  Now, the actress says, she appeals directly to Christian with all of her footwear questions, making even Serena Van der Woodsen’s life look less glamorous in comparison.

 

6. Foot Fetish (2007)

As a filmmaker, David Lynch is known for his dark imagery, twisted plotlines and unusual characters. His take on sexuality is equally complex. That’s why, when he collaborated with Louboutin in 2007 for a photography exhibit at the Galerie du Passage in Paris, the result was Fetish: a series of voyeuristic images of women in scandalous shoes.  Louboutin designed hybrid stiletto/toe-shoes, some with ribbons that wrapped up the calf and others with heels higher than the shoe itself, all with the signature red sole, bien sur.

 

 

5. Let Them Eat Cake (2009)

After the economic meltdown of 2008, luxury designers started shaking in their boots— but not Mr. Louboutin. No, he took the opportunity to double-down on opulence, debuting his ‘Marie Antoinette’ shoes.  His most ornate shoes yet, they retailed for a wallet-busting $6,925. But did clients get outraged and revolt?  Guess again.  Wealthy women shelled out for the Versailles-like pumps and foreswore loyalty to their fearless leader in footwear.

 

 

4. Throwing on My Louboutins (2009)

J.Lo isn’t the only pop star to swear by Christian Louboutin’s shoes but she is the only one to write a song about them. ‘Louboutins’ was Jenny from the block’s take on Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’’: in the record, a “part-time lover” gets the courage to pick up and leave when she throws on her Loubs. Her boyfriend watches her red soles recede in the distance. The song wasn’t exactly a hit, but Lopez’s love letter to Louboutins proves that they’re part of our pop-culture vocabulary.

 

 

3. Barbie Girl (2009)

Who’s more iconic than Barbie? Since 1959 she’s captured the imaginations of little American girls and turned them on to fashion. And everyone remembers her arched feet, pointed downwards to slide easily into candy-colored plastic pumps. Louboutin’s ongoing collaboration with Mattel began with a flame-haired doll in a black pleather catsuit, who came equipped with teeny-tiny shoeboxes full of red-soled shoes and boots. She’s not the most kid-friendly toy, but she certainly ranks among the most stylish.

 

 

2. Louboutin vs. YSL (2011)

It may sound like much ado about nothing, but the court battle between Christian Louboutin and Yves St. Laurent over the right to sell shoes with red soles made it clear that Louboutin views his signature as a crucial element of his brand. While YSL argued that they had produced red-soled shoes long before Louboutin did, Louboutin compared the shade of red he uses to Cadbury’s purple packaging or Hermes’s orange. Does he have a leg to stand on? The law sided with YSL, but you be the judge.

 

 

1. Louboutins and the City (2010)

It was like a lifelong Pepsi drinker switching to Coke: for the sequel to the Sex and the City  movie, Carrie and company kissed goodbye to their longtime friend Manolo Blahnik and stepped into Louboutins. The decision reflected a regime change in fashion— Blahnik, Spanish king of the ladies who lunch, was officially ousted by the prince from Paris. So the question becomes: will Louboutin hold on to his title? Will Manolos make a comeback? Or will they both be overthrown by some humble courtier—like Guiseppe Zanotti, Brian Atwood or Nicholas Kirkwood, perhaps?

 

 

Rachelle Bergstein is the author of Women From the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us, which publishes with HarperCollins this June.  You can find her on Twitter @RaBergstein or post pictures of your favorite shoes on her Facebook page.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her cat and her shoes.

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