A red that makes a difference: Louboutin’s sole

It is globally labeled by Pantone under the 18-1663TP code and, officially, it identifies the brand: here is how it was born

Whether true or false, it’s a given: in the fashion system, there is just one red that makes a difference and it is the one which made iconic the soles (and the shoes, of course) by Christian Louboutin. According to the French designer, “designing shoes is tied to an idea of freedom of spirit and of independence. An idea that maybe will last forever, thanks to the use of a special red shade. Let us tell you about this in the next lines.

A red that makes a difference

Where did Louboutin draw inspiration from, to give birth to a creative tradition that became his distinctive mark in a short while and changed the history of footwear? There are two versions, that are similar, but only to a certain extent. The one which is closer to reality, some say, tells that Louboutin, in 1993, noticed one of his assistants while she was painting her nails with a carmine red enamel. The colour enchanted him so much, that he took the enamel bottle and poured some on the sole of one of his shoes. It was love at first sight.

Thanks to this red, the shoe becomes alive

A more fictional version of the story, instead, can be read in a volume published by Rizzoli, which retraces the main steps of Louboutin’s creative story. Here, he tells that “the sketches for the Pensées collection (Autumn/Winter ’93-’94) were in color, but when I took the first shoe in my hand […], I noticed that it could not have been more different from the drawing. Something was wrong and it took me some time to understand what it was: it was the black sole’s fault. I grabbed a bottle of red nail enamel from my assistant’s hands and I poured it on the sole. Thanks to the colour, the model was brought to life […]”. As a result, Louboutin’s red today is the same for all pairs. And that’s not all.

Pantone 18-1663TP

“Louboutin red” is codified internationally by Pantone under the 18-1663TP reference number. After a long proceeding, in 2018 the European Court decided that the red sole is indicative of the Louboutin brand. In other words: the sole is not part of the brand, but it serves the purpose of highlighting its placement. That means that a colour can be a brand. In this way, the distinctiveness of the brand does not involve a specific form, but the association to the Pantone 18-1663TP red itself. The moral of the story is that Louboutin red really does make a difference.