Go to Appearance » Widgets tab to overwrite this section. Use any widgets that fits you best. This is called Bottom 4.
If you're not familiar with the name Christian Louboutin, it's a guarantee your wife, girlfriend, mom, hell even the lady in front of you at the post office is. The French shoe designer is best known for his signature red-soled, sky high heels that have become the female footwear equivalent of a Rolex; which is to say they're exceptionally crafted, expensive, and immediately recognizable. While his legion of loyal ladies may be the foundation for the brand's success, Louboutin has turned his attention to the gents in recent years, slowly rolling out a full line of footwear for guys that bears the hallmarks of his playful, sometimes subversive design aesthetic. In fact, the collection of classic dress shoes, iconic spiked loafers, and lu kicks has grown so steadily since it's inception that dedicated stores became a necessity for the brand. One in Louboutin's home city of Paris came first and late last month his men's only NYC store was completed. We caught up with the designer just after his Meatpacking District boutique opened it's doors for business and learned how his men's business almost happened by accident, the difference between designing for a woman and a man, and why he associates clogs with donkeys.
GQ: Congratulations on the new store. I'm sure GQ readers are familiar with your name but may not be as familiar with your point-of-view as a men's designer. How did your men's business come about?
** Louboutin:** Well I always did a little bit for men. For me or for friends if I needed a shoe. But properly as a collection I really started three years ago a young pop star called Mika called me one day and wanted me to design all the shoes for his show for his tour. I like his music, so I say "great, why not?" But I did want to know why he asked me, who designs shoes for women, when he is a man and wants men's shoes? He said he lives with his three sisters and never sees so much excitement in girls as when they put my shoes on. Everything on stage for him needs to be very exciting, exciting for him but also exciting for his fans there. And so I started to do a full collection of shoes thinking of him on stage. Then I drifted towards designing a full collection, which of course he didn't need. He needed a few pairs. I ended up putting some of them in my stores and they flew away. So I really started because of someone on stage. And it's funny because now I feel that a lot of people, stage people actually, entertainers in general, love my shoes, so it sort of makes sense.
GQ: You've designed for other entertainers on stage, women and men, aside from Mika. Is there a secret to designing a shoe meant for the stage versus one for daily life? Does it come down to materials that are reflective or shiny or does the silhouette change?
** Louboutin:** It really depends on people, on the performer. Some performers are very sleek and so the design is going to be very simple, very straight lines, or either pointed really, I'd say in terms of line. Depending who is on stage it can be the shape as it really is or it can be an added element. It really depends on people.
GQ: And then once you determine the profile...
** Louboutin:** I work on things that are shiny - you need to think of things that are attracting light, that's for sure. Or completely redirecting the light. But you think in terms of lighting. That's for sure.
GQ: When you decided to move ahead with the line of men's shoes, did you find anything challenging about the transition? Were there issues you didn't anticipate?
** Louboutin:** Something quite challenging for me is that for the longest time guys, especially me being born and raised in Paris, we always have this idea that men just love shoes and a shoe should last forever. I have seen it many times lately that a lot of guys are not anymore in this attitude. It could be called metrosexual or whatever. But a lot of guys who are really into shoes are just like women who are really into shoes. Even if women adore shoes I haven't really met any women yet that are proud to have shoes for twenty years. There is a whole new attitude to men - they're pretty excited the way women are about shoes and it's definitely not a gay attitude. I mean it does concern gay people as well, but it's clearly not a specialty to gay people. A lot of guys have told me they now understand the excitement they saw their wives have for five years.
GQ: Technically speaking, what's the biggest difference between designing for a man and for a woman? Obviously it's different based on heel height, but are there details that are particular to designing a shoe for a man?
** Louboutin:** Definitely, you know it's a funny, it's quite rare that when I'm designing shoes for men and then for women at the same time because...
GQ: That's what I was going to ask.
** Louboutin:** I actually put myself in a specific state of mind. Let's say I take a piece of leather and I'm thinking of a woman. I'm going to think, "OK, can I recover bottoms, can I do a bow, is it soft enough, can I drape it?" When I'm in my men mentality then I'm going to visualize it completely differently. Is it thick enough? Will it expand enough? Is it soft enough that guys will like it? Do I need to line it? I mean the question will be completely different. That's why you have to program yourself if I'm into men or if I'm into women. When I'm working for women it's never curvy enough. You know the heel is curving the legs but also curving the body. When you're thinking men you're thinking differently and designing with more angles, you know. My drawing for women is really curvy. My drawings for men are actually quite angular.
GQ: If you are in a different head space when it comes to the technical aspects, do you still use similar inspirations for both women and men? Or is it two completely separate processes?
** Louboutin:** Well no, some things are completely different but again, it's the way you look at things. Lets say for instance I'm going to use a print. Some prints are good for men because if the print is quite big then the surface that you have for men is larger, bigger, and thicker in general. For women some prints won't work for instance because you have a high heel pump then the surface of it is too small. You end up losing the print. It's definitely two things. That's why it sort of needed its own environment.
GQ: Did you have concerns about your aesthetic appealing to men in the way that your women's shoes do to that audience? To your point earlier, men don't necessarily think about shoes the same way as women and women react in a very particular way to your designs.
** Louboutin:** I just enjoyed doing it at the beginning. The answer was there were a lot of guys into what I was doing so that was enough for me. I would have still done it with the biggest joy and not necessarily needed to open the stores. But the response was so quick. We open the New York store and it wasn't 100 percent ready but in three hours we sold 160 pairs. When I first opened my first men's store it was in August last year in Paris and Paris is known to be the most deserted city in August. I did not speak about the opening, there was no soft openings, there was nothing. I was on holiday basically, and from the first day it got filled and we thought it's by accident. And it never stopped. I mean I should knock on wood saying that but it hasn't stopped since.
GQ: So the reaction in the U.S. has been similar to Paris?
** Louboutin:** It's funny, in the states here it's almost like there's this culture and I think its born out of a lot of guys who are interested in your brand and are interested in fashion in general. You know, basketball players here who literally wear the latest, hippest things and then the next week they're in something completely different. Its not even metrosexual, its sort of just in the landscape of American fashion for men.
GQ: Do you have any idea why that is these days?
** Louboutin:** The spectrum is so vast. I have a lot of sport people that wear the shoes, a lot of singers and entertainers. It goes through that. It's also that people need to be in a suit on the red carpet and twenty years ago those people who have a tie or bow tie and want their collars to stand out. Now if you look at pictures you see that most guys have the same black suit with the same white shirt. The difference is that the shirts can be open, no bow tie, no ties and the fantasy exists in the shoes. So I think the fashion fantasy shifted from the tie or bow tie to the shoes.
GQ: Guys are definitely more comfortable making a look their own these days. You already mentioned this a bit but at what point did your men's business necessitate its own shop?
** Louboutin:** I'm very very close to my stores because I first started with a store in Paris 20 years ago with my office is next door. And 20 years after I opened my first men's store next to the women's store, so its all linked and quite close. When I'm in Paris I'm in my office and checking the stores or passing in front of them. When I'm in Italy I'm sleeping in my factory, it's the same thing. Little by little when I started to put the men's shoes in the women's store I was realizing that the proportion, the niche environment I design for women is really dedicated by the proportion of a woman's shoe. It ended up not working properly. If you put like a big sneaker or a long loafer in a size 12 in a small space that is supposedly dedicated to a high heel size 5, the proportion is just too big. It's like putting a guy in too small of a suit - it just doesn't work.
GQ: The New York store has an industrial edge that really contrasts the intimate women's boutique. I'm assuming that this was a conscious effort, to change the in-store aesthetic to suit guys?
** Louboutin:** When I'm doing a store in a country, I always like to consider the concept of the country and the city. Ask what are the clothes of the city, what does this city represent for me? New York is a very urban city and it sort of makes sense for the store to be a reflection of the type of industrial side of New York. And even in the colors it should be more in the greys, something much more masculine.
The NYC Christian Louboutin men's shop
GQ: The store features a unique tattoo bar too where customers can recreate their own body art onto your shoes. Where did you come up with the idea for that?
** Louboutin:** Well I have friends who have tattoos. You meet a lot of people who, when they show or exhibit their tattoos, explain where it is coming from and that it is a reflection of something. It's very much a map of your history. When people are interested in their tattoos they talk really of their story, of their love of their family, of their history and for that I think that it's as important as people who have a family crest. In fact tattoos nowadays are really modern armories. So instead of having a shoe with a fake crest or armory, it's this idea of doing a bespoke one that has your own armory, represented by your tattoo embroidered on your shoe. It's basically a one of a kind shoe because it represents the person.
GQ: Are there any factors you have to take in into consideration about how men shop versus women when planning a men's store?
** Louboutin:** It's much easier. You need really big seats because men put their shoes on, and jump up to see if it fits perfectly and then sit and decide to see a shoe in different colors. They're quicker in general and they love to stand in one place. For instance a mirror needs to be one size for men, where for a woman it needs almost to be two sizes. I always observe that when women are trying on shoes they look from the front and then they'll turn and look at their ass, they'll look at their back. Men look at the front and barely look at their ass. That's the big difference between the shopping between men and women.
**GQ: Before I let you go, I have to get your opinion on what you think is the worst offense most men make in choosing a pair of shoes. **
** Louboutin:** Something I really hate more than anything else is clogs. A shoe is not only a design, but it's a part of your body language, the way you walk. The way you're going to move is quite dictated by your shoes. I love the noise that is provoked by shoes, you know men's shoes or women's shoes. I remember my father having those metal parts underneath the soles so you could hear him clack clack clack, almost like tap dance, and so certainly for me it's a very masculine noise. So that's why I have a problem with clogs because if you hear someone arriving in clogs, you're just not thinking that a guy is going to arrive or a woman is going to arrive - you think a donkey probably is going to arrive. And so, just the noise, it drives me nuts.
Subscribe now and get a FREE weekender bag and the GQ Style Guide.Subscribe
Follow @GQ for photos of celebrities, what to wear to work, and more.Follow Us