Louis XIV was King of France for 72 years. To this day he remains the longest reigning monarch in European History. Although he is probably best known for his desire to be an absolute monarch, its also important to remember that is was he who established France as the centre of fashion. Fashions had always been dominated by the most powerful country, and before Louis had increased France’s power, Spain had been the prime European power. Spanish fashions had been severe and rigid, influenced by their strict Catholicism. French fashions by contrast were looser and sumptuous, and they dominated the fashions of Europe for the second half of the seventeenth century.
Louis used fashion as a symbol of status and as such he had strict rules about who could wear what. One thing he pioneered was red heeled shoes which he decreed could only be worn by aristocrats. In many portraits of this time the red heeled shoes worn are emphasised as they became symbols of status and French luxury (this can be seen in the Rigaud portrait of Louis XIV above). This however, wasn’t just limited to France, red-heeled shoes became popular throughout the continent as they showed off a person’s wealth and status.
The red-heeled shoes of Louis XIV can be argued as being a distant influence on the red soled shoes of Christian Louboutin. Christian Louboutin first used the red soled shoes in 1993, around the time when he was bringing the stiletto back into fashion. They came about when he “spontaneously grabbed my assistant’s red nail polish and painted the sole.” The red soles made the shoes come alive, and they have since become symbols of French luxury, much like the red-heeled shoes of Louis XIV’s time were.
This goes to show how often trends are cyclical, and how a style so seemingly obscure can be revived centuries later. It really makes you wonder what styles popular today will be adopted by our distant descendants. Nevertheless, red-heeled or red-soled shoes have acted as symbols of luxury and wealth. They were worn by the rich and famous aristocrats and royals of the seventeenth century and the rich and famous celebrities of today, becoming the ultimate symbol of status.
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