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 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!)