From Louboutins To Birkenstocks: Tracing The History Of Iconic Shoes

Shoeography | Monday, November 23, 2020 | 0 comments

There is a reason why Louboutins have stood the test of time, remaining some of the most highly prized shoes in fashion history. And as much as that reason has to do with the quality of the shoes -- which certainly isn't to be dismissed -- it also has to do with branding and the creation of an undeniable identity. Louboutin shoes are more than just the shoes themselves. They are specifically "red-bottomed shoes," referred to in countless songs, films, and television shows. Becoming recognizable based on their iconic red soles alone, these shoes are the classic indulgences that one would save for years to own. They can be the ideal objects of retail therapy, being the perfect shoes for women to buy after they get divorced (as about 40% to 50% of all married Americans do).

Shoeography: From Louboutins To Birkenstocks: Tracing The History Of Iconic Shoes

But Louboutin shoes are certainly not the only types of footwear that we can deem iconic. Shoes are their stories, or the stories that we project onto them. With that being said, let's look into some of the more iconic shoe styles that are still keeping us dreaming of the day that we'll wear them -- as well as the story behind those red soles.

How Louboutin Got Those Red Soles

Christian Louboutin founded his famous line of footwear in 1991, but two years later, it still had yet to become the legend that it would soon be as a brand. Louboutin was inspired, at that time, by an Andy Warhol drawing called "Flowers". After having a pair of shoes designed after the drawing custom-made in Italy, Louboutin received the supposedly-finished product. Though the pink stacked heel decorated with a bright blossom was similar to Louboutin's original inspiration, it lacked the punch that he felt was conveyed by the Warhol drawing.

The shoe, like most shoes of its era, had a black sole. Noticing a nearby assistant painting her nails red, Louboutin requested the nail polish and painted over the black sole, turning it a bright red. Only then was he satisfied with the appearance of the shoe, thus inadvertently creating a calling card that stands with his brand to this day. Louboutin reasons that the red soles have an undeniable appeal to men, much like the red coats that matadors wave before fighting bulls. Indeed, the contrast between a shoe and its red sole is impossible to ignore, and furthermore was a unique detail at the time that gave Louboutin brand recognition. Now, we know that color can improve brand recognition by up to 80%, but in 1993 those red soles were revolutionary. But certainly, Louboutins are not the only shoes that became iconic years ago and remain iconic today.

Manolo Blahnik, The Carrie Bradshaw Shoe

Manolo Blahniks, often referred to as Manolos, are seen in this day and age as shoes that are fit for the young, stylish working woman. Designed by Manolo Blahnik himself, the shoes were originally inspired by his mother, a fashionable woman who designed her own shoes. Manolos became known for being light, elegant, and feminine -- and for bringing back the stiletto heel in the 1970s, an era that was otherwise dominated by clunkier wedges and clogs.

But perhaps what really made Manolos even more coveted was their frequent name-dropping on HBO's hit Sex and the City. Lead character Carrie Bradshaw was constantly seen wearing the shoes. She sank tens of thousands of dollars into her Manolo collection and even attempted to protect them while being mugged. These shoes became not only associated with her sense of style, but with the general idealization of Manolo Blahniks as the ideal stylish city girl's shoes.

How Doc Martens Became The Ideal Combat Boots

Combat boots can be worn by men and women and were celebrated by punks of the 1970s and 80s, and embraced by the grunge aesthetic of the 1990s. They remain popular to this day, and there are no other combat boots more iconic than Doc Martens. Technically, of course, they are Dr. Martens, named for Klaus Martens. A German doctor, he injured himself when skiing and discovered that his standard-issue combat boots were too uncomfortable for his injured feet. Fashioning his own adjusted boots, he focused on air-cushioned soles that would make him more comfortable as he recovered.

After going into business with a friend, Dr. Martens eventually created boots that were initially popular among British housewives due to their comfort but gradually became adopted as fashion statements among younger generations. Known for their long-lasting durability and distinctive yellow stitching around the soles, Doc Martens are definitely investment shoes. But for connoisseurs of combat boots, they're well worth the cost.

Birkenstocks, The Shoes Of A Movement

When we mention the term Birkenstocks, you may think of the types of sandals worn by the hippies and counterculturists of the 1960s and 1970s. That's because the shoes, though still popular today among a wide variety of shoe lovers, became an iconic part of a generation. Tracing their history all the way back to an 18th-century German shoemaker, Birkenstocks grew in popularity after World War II. After soldiers returned home with injuries, they needed shoes that were comfortable on an orthopedic level. Nothing was more comfortable than Birkenstock sandals, and they remain some of the most comfortable shoes in the world today.

1973 saw Birkenstock release its most famous design, the Arizona sandal. The shoes grew popular among American flower children, due to their association with a natural aesthetic and general comfort. When Kate Moss wore Birkenstocks for a photoshoot in the 1990s, they became an important part of the high fashion scene and remain popular to this day. In particular, their animal-friendly reputation makes them popular among VSCO girls and those influenced by them.

From heels to boots to sandals, there is an iconic design associated with virtually every major shoe style. The question for many is where shoes will go next. No matter what, classic designers keep pushing the limits of fashion, and new trendsetters will continue to challenge them.

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