Christian Louboutin (French, born 1963)
Black patent leather with red leather sole; h. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
Gift of Christian Louboutin, 2012 (2012.121a,b)
Shoe designer Christian Louboutin is known for the arching profile of his signature high-heeled styles with their flash of lacquer red soles. In this design, more concept piece than wearable fashion, he exposes the whole underside of the shoe by attenuating the stiletto heel to such an extreme height that the wearer must balance on her toes, with only the most minimal supporting balance at the very back of her heel. This en pointe silhouette appears in fetish wear as boots with the foot positioned so that mobility is virtually precluded. In this position, however, the shortening of the calf muscle introduces a greater contour to the leg. The black patent leather and incapacitating stiletto heel invite the inevitable louche sexual associations, but Louboutin also evokes the refined and codified aesthetics of the ballet with his accurate replication of a dancer's pointe shoe. The designer has been quoted as saying that he wants to give the illusion of a lengthened leg to his clients. With this extreme strategy a woman gains an inch or two of illusion, if at the cost of comfort. These designs suggest that the artifice employed to attain an idealized fashionable beauty is not without its challenges.