The Red Sole has become synonymous with Christian Louboutin and high fashion but now Louboutin is suing fashion rival Yves Saint Laurent over the use of the colour red on shoe soles. According to Louboutin, he is the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women's shoes and has previously asked the company Yves Saint Laurent America, a subsidiary of the Gucci Group, to stop selling red-soled shoes in the same select Manhattan stores as he does. The suit asks for a U.S. judge to impose $1 million in damages and order YSL to stop manufacturing similar designs. Shortly after Louboutin founded his first boutique in 1991 in Paris, all his shoes have had red-lacquered soles. They can fetch more than $1,000 a pair. Christian Louboutin filed a trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to protect his signature red-soled shoes.
In antiquity shoes carried many meanings and were not just symbols of social position they were also considered good luck charms. Appropriate footwear could invoke the favour of gods and avert evil so by the time of the Romans the colour of footwear had really taken on significant meaning. The art of dyeing was age old and people of substance had worn special colours usually with the more rare or expensive reserved for the well heeled. Julius Caesar (101-44 BC) liked gold trimmed, red boots with high heels. Red was the colour worn by the young at the time and it was generally considered incongruous for a man of his advancing years to wear red shoes. The height challenged Caesar defied criticism and continued to wear his favourite shoe with lifts for extra height.
Cardinals selecting the new pope behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel sported red leather shoes. No one appears to know the exact origins of red papal shoes although but they became very popular in the 17th & 18th Century. The red shoes are thought to be based upon imperial red/purple shoes. Excusive rights to wear imperial "purple" belonged to the emperors long before the origins of Christianity but as the Christian faith grew, emperors did bestow many privileges upon the Popes including the right to wear imperial insignia and colours about their dress. (Donation of Constantine 750-800). At first all popes wore black sandals then circa 1290, they took to wearing socks with their thongs. Some socks were violet (Hyacinth colour), the trendy liturgical colour of the time but as the years passed red socks became common. The red socks were not symbolic but instead a natural consequence of rich imported luxury of all kind. By the time of Nicolas V (15th century), shoes had replaced sandals and the only difference between the Pope and his bishops was the former had the right to have a cross on their shoes. This relates to kissing the Pope’s feet as a mark of respect and refers to foot washing. According to early renaissance paintings the elite feet of the Vatican were encased in beautiful red shoes. High ecclesiastics distanced themselves from the common masses by conspicuous refinement and extravagant ornamentation. When a Pope dies, the Pontiff’s body lies in state dressed in his funeral garments, which consist of a white cassock, scarlet chasuble (long sleeveless liturgical vestment) and red silk shoes.