It’s not brand new information that the barely-there ankle strap sandal is huge this season. And really, I can’t see why it wasn’t as popular before! I think it’s a very beautiful, classic, and timeless style. Every girl should have a pair in her closet! I posted earlier on how to find the perfect pair of ankle strap shoes for your legs, so this week I’m sharing one of the most popular shoes of the trend and how to find a pair that looks similar!
Ever have a specific shoe design in mind but can’t seem to find it anywhere? Say hello to Upper Street! Created by Julia Grinham and Katy Chandler, the website is a gold mine of exotic materials, unique shapes, and countless possibilities. Even if you’re not planning on buying a pair, the Shoe Designer is so much fun to play with that you’ll spend many hours coming up with different combinations. I discovered this site about a year ago, and since then have been building my own little online collection.
With Upper Street, you even have a chance to win your own custom pair! Follow them on Twitter @UpperStreetShoe, and every Tuesday you can enter a photo of your shoes. And if you think your chances are slim, think again! Last week I entered with my candy-red pumps and won! This is an absolute dream-come-true for any shoe lover, and I’m excited to share my experience with you.
Upper Street is fun and easy to use. There are design ideas, swatch galleries, and a lot of other information about their shoes. If you live nearby, you can even book an appointment to try on shoes and get help with the design process! But if not, you can always just use their online Shoe Designer, which guides you through the process of creating your ideal shoe.
You start by picking a “base style” for your shoe. There are several toe shapes, heel heights, and platform heights available. This is further customizable because you can choose a front style, back style, and add straps and embellishments.
Can anyone guess who these red soled shoes are by? I actually ended up returning these beauties (wah!) because it just so happened that I ruined my only running sneakers a couple days later and had to get new ones. So these went back, and a pair of bright purple running shoes came home with me instead. I did go back to the store a week later to see if the pumps were still there but it turns out they were gone. And I wasn’t too surprised, they really are a standout pair! I guess a shoe-rendipity moment didn’t happen with this pair, but I’m sure there will be others!
There’s nothing more I love in the summer than running around in a barely-there sandal. But there’s nothing worse than when those barely-there sandal burn blisters onto your feet. And the chances of that happening are much greater if those sandals (or any shoes for that matter) are not made of real leather.
Historically, shoes were made of leather or other natural fibers, such as woven fabrics or plant materials. These materials differed based on the shoe’s function and the wealth of the wearer. Early 19th-century aristocratic women wore thin slippers made of brocade that were too fragile to use outdoors, while maids and manual workers wore sturdy leather boots or wooden clogs. Egyptians molded braided papyrus into soles and attached rawhide straps to keep them on the foot; Africans sewed slip-on sandals from colorful leathers; Spanish made shoes from rope; and Slavic nations fashioned shoes from felt.
Events in modern history, such as shortage of materials during wars and new technological discoveries, changed the shoe landscape by introducing cork and other alternative materials. As the demand for shoes grew in our modern society, it became necessary to provide affordable shoes that were accessible to everyone. And man-made leather became the most popular material for manufacturing cheaper shoes.
Faux leather, or man-made leather, is a material that looks like leather, but is made by combining different chemicals. The two most commonly used are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). The first is made by adding plasticizers to PVC, which make it more flexible. The second is made by coating a fabric (usually cotton or polyester) with a flexible polymer and then treating it to give it a more leather-like appearance. When they were first used in fashion, the terms “pleather” and “faux-leather” implied that the wearer was too poor to buy genuine leather items, but man-made leather has become increasingly more common these days because it’s cheaper than leather, looks very similar, and is extremely versatile.
In my opinion, neither is good. The materials are given names like pleather or faux leather to make them seem more like the real thing, but the bottom line is that PVC and PU are plastic materials filled with chemicals, including petroleum and pthalates. Ever wonder why your feet burn, sweat, and feel uncomfortably hot in some shoes and not others? It’s all related to what the shoes are made out of.
The main reason many shoppers choose man-made leather over real leather is the price. Synthetic shoes are often cheaper than a comparable pair of leather shoes. But since man-made materials have become more popular and acceptable (especially since fake-leather has started being referred to as “vegan leather” – seriously?), designers and retailers have been getting away with charging the same or more for fake leather products as they do for real leather products. So when it comes down to price, would you rather buy a pair of real leather sandals for $60 or fake leather for $60? I think I’ll go for the real leather, thank you very much. The simple fact that I feel more comfortable when I know my feet aren’t surrounded by plastic is the main reason I purchase leather shoes. But there are other benefits as well:
Comfort – Real leather shoes allow the feet to “breathe” more than faux leather shoes. Leather also flexes, stretches and molds to the foot, allowing it to move more naturally. Faux leather will cause your feet to sweat and feel uncomfortable as it does not allow air to flow as easily through the material. It can also cause blisters or rashes to form on the feet from friction and heat because the plastic materials will not soften with time.
Durability – Leather shoes usually last longer than man-made shoes. A well-made pair of shoes can last many years, especially if taken care of properly. Leather shoes don’t crack or tear as easily and keep their color much longer, so they’re a much better investment. Since classics never go out of style, it’s a good idea to purchase certain styles in leather, such as black pumps, black boots, and a simple pair of flats.
Appearance – Personally, I think real leather looks nicer than faux leather. It holds up to the elements much better (if taken care of properly) and has a more refined look as it ages. It also doesn’t have the plastic-chemical smell that often accompanies faux leather.
When shopping for leather shoes, always look at the label. Check to make sure that both the upper AND the lining are leather. If the lining is made of PVC or PU, it defeats the purpose of purchasing a leather shoe because it cancels out the breathability and flexibility of the leather outer. However, a fabric lining is often better in boots. I find that a padded fabric lining keeps feet warmer in boots than just a layer of leather.
Every girl needs a pair of candy-red pumps in her closet! Even though these Giuseppe Zanotti pumps make me think of pin-up girls, red is a surprisingly versatile color. It’s great for a color-blocked outfit, or to add a pop of color to monochrome and neutral outfits. I think wearing red pumps with blue jeans and a white button up top is a great way to bring a little extra oomph to a casual outfit!
Neons, pastels, and florals are fun for spring, but you can never go wrong with a black and white palette. After several seasons of bold colors and busy patterns, simplifying your outfit to a monochrome palette is like a breath of fresh air. There’s something very reassuring about structured and clean black-and-white designs; they’re modern, simple, and bold all at the same time. This season, the black-and-white trend has been applied to both clothing and accessories in traditional ways as well as graphic interpretations using prints, patterns, and color blocking.
The above pair by Calvin Klein is a bit of a tease because they’re not under $100, but I just had to put them up because I think they’re stunning. Below, you’ll find my 10 picks (all under $100) that are a great buy for this season:
The story goes that Christian Louboutin incorporated the iconic red sole in 1992 when an assistant with him was painting her nails; he grabbed the nail polish from her and painted the soles of his shoes. But I believe the story goes further back than that.
Louboutin b began sketching shoes in his early teens, and after a year in India, he assembled a portfolio of elaborate designs and brought them to top couture houses, which resulted in employment with Charles Jourdan in 1981.
Charles Jourdan (who died a few years before Louboutin was hired) was a well-known French shoe designer whose lines of women’s shoes prospered after WWI. The shoe brand became connected to haute couture in 1959 with the contract between Jourdan and the house of Christian Dior, and the shoes were distributed world-wide. After Jourdan died, the company continued under the leadership of his sons, and the brand became known for innovative materials and fantastic designs in addition to conservative styles. The company’s reputation was further advanced by avant-garde images in advertising. And in the 70s and early 80s, shoes in his collection had a bright red lining…and a bright red sole.
Did Louboutin use the red sole in his designs for Charles Jourdan before he started his own company? Did he take the red sole with him when he left? Nobody knows because he has never revealed that fact. But I believe his time working there left an impact. You can still find vintage Charles Jourdan shoes from the 70s and 80s with a red sole, which makes them look surprisingly like Louboutins to the unknowing stranger. These were made long before the red sole became synonymous with Louboutins. Unfortunately, Jourdans were not as well known for red bottoms because they did not manufacture all their shoes with the color, whereas all of Louboutins designs have a red sole.
Recently, I have spotted several pairs of Charles Jourdan shoes with a red sole that look strikingly similar to Louboutin’s iconic sole. The only different is a thin gold line and stamped name at the edge of the sole. In my opinion, Jourdan shoes are just as beautiful as Louboutins (and certainly not as wild as some Louboutins can get). Most pairs are made entirely of leather and are much more affordable than a pair of Louboutins. But not all the shoes have a red sole, you’ll have to flip them over to check!
You could get fakes (not a good idea), or you could get a pair by the company that started it all! So what would you go for: Louboutins outrageous and expensive designs or Jourdans more classic and affordable designs? Keep in mind that one of the shoe companies has been around much much longer!
You can still find vintage Charles Jourdan shoes on sites like eBay or etsy.
Here are some newer Charles Jourdan shoes with red soles:
Charles Jourdan Isha (DSW – on sale!)
Charles Jourdan Illana (DSW)
Charles Jourdan Ira (DSW – on sale!)
Of course I noticed all the dresses, but I was definitely paying more attention to the shoes worn for the punk-themed Met gala last week. I was surprised how many I actually recognized. I picked out several of my favorites, as well as tracked down where you could get some of them if you really wanted to. Enjoy!