Last updated on January 19th, 2022 at 10:45 am
“I’ve just seen the most fabulous pair of red shoes!” *sends photo to friend.
“Wow! Buy now!”
“Well… I love them but… what shall I wear them with?”
“You have that little black dress.”
“Yeee…s – but then I can only wear them with one thing. Hmm. They’ll make a real statement, but if they’re going to spend most of their time in the wardrobe, is it really worth getting them? And red doesn’t really suit me anyway.”
“You have a point. See if they have them in black?”
Sound familiar? You spot this gorgeous pair of scarlet shoes, only to talk yourself out of buying them. What are the chances of you regretting your decision later on, when you find they’ve sold out in your size? It seems like you just can’t win. Let’s take a look at why so many of us think that we can’t wear red shoes and see if we can find ways to make your red shoe purchase more budget friendly by wearing them more often.
What do red shoes go with?
Far more than you might imagine! Let’s start with what you think might be the obvious choice of a red dress. Oooh, no, I can hear you saying. I can’t wear a red dress or top, it’s too much, it doesn’t suit my skin tone. Yes, you’re probably right and therein lies the perceived problem with the colour red.
Think how difficult it is to find the perfect red lipstick. How many shades do you trial before finding the right one for your skin, if at all? However, that’s the great beauty of red shoes: they’re not going to be anywhere near your face, so the problem of finding the right crimson hue is immediately eliminated. You can have all the advantages of wearing this fun, eye-catching colour without the worry of endless searching for the “right” shade, simply by wearing it on your feet!
So let’s look at some fool-proof ways to wear your new red shoes then. We’ve already mentioned the little black dress – stick to a simple and classic silhouette and red heeled shoes will add just that little je ne sais quoi for a special occasion, especially if it’s a favourite dress you’ve previously worn but you want to up the style stakes a little. A more conservative dress, perhaps knee-length and with sleeves, will better give you that overall sultry effect rather than choosing a more overtly sexy outfit. Carry a black or metallic bag to keep the focus on the shoes.
Red shoes come in all kinds of styles making them extremely versatile. Cute scarlet ballet flats, business-like Mary-Janes with mid-height block heels, holiday loafers in a warm brick shade, strappy sandals in cherry red with cork wedge heels, flat wooden heeled slides in a darker burgundy for everyday wear – all can work stylishly with a range of outfits. Also consider if you prefer a shiny finish or a matte, suede-like effect. Patent looks are certainly on trend and add to that special “statement” if that’s what you’re going for.
Don’t think red shoes are only for special occasions though. Here are some suggestions for other colour combinations:
- Classic black trousers and a white shirt, either dressy or casual, look special but effortless matched with red.
- A white T-shirt and jeans are made for red shoes, whether flats or stilettos. Add an on trend moto jacket, preferably in black, to up the rock n roll factor.
- All white outfits – dresses, jumpsuits, separates – look sensational in the summer contrasted with red footwear. Try off-white with wine or berry coloured shoes for a less obvious take on this look.
- All shades of blue – baby blue, cobalt, navy – suit red shoes. A blue and white striped top will give a nautical touch to your ensemble.
- Pick out small flashes of red in a busy print by teaming it with red shoes. Stripes and polka dots also look especially cool.
- Wear neutral separates with your red shoes for a work appropriate style.
- Pair red ankle boots with leggings for a practical but stylish look.
- Add red trainers to your usual black and white sportswear for an on trend workout look.
- An unusual but very effective choice with red shoes is a purple dress, or if you’re very brave and really want to be the centre of attention, orange or pink.
- Even brides can wear red shoes! Tea length wedding dresses combined with fiery red shoes are an alternative look which is becoming more and more popular. Style the dress with a big, poufy, red tulle underskirt and you have a very special outfit indeed.
A few combinations to avoid:
- Be wary of matching red shoes with green unless you want to look like a Christmas tree! Deep olive green is the way to go.
- Let the red shoes do the talking – don’t overload your outfit with a red bag, bracelet, belt and scarf if you want to avoid the worst excesses of the 1980s!
- Avoid wearing with other suggestive pieces – the red shoes are statement enough on their own. Overly ripped jeans, tight, low cut tops or Daisy Duke shorts will just make you look like you’re trying too hard!
When to wear red shoes
Before making your final selection, ask yourself what you hope to achieve by wearing your red shoes. Slinky red stilettos are an unmistakably vibrant choice if you want to make a lasting impression on a date or at a big event, but think too about where you will be walking in them. In a professional environment, a lower heel will still give that assertive but feminine vibe to a well-groomed, otherwise neutral look while allowing you to stay on your feet all day.
A recent study in France showed that waitresses earn higher tips when wearing red! On the other hand, another survey indicated that red shoes at a job interview are best avoided unless you’re going for a more aggressive post in sales, for example.
What do red shoes say about you?
Red shoes are a statement of power. Ask Taylor Swift or Gwen Stefani. They choose red to stand out from the crowd, to look bold and assertive, even dominant and rebellious.
This power goes back to the seventeenth century French court of Louis XIV, where only men of sufficiently aristocratic standing were allowed to wear red heels. The dye came from cochineal – a fabulously expensive import of crushed Mexican beetles. Come the French Revolution a hundred years on and no-one wanted to flaunt their wealth for fear of losing their head, so red shoes faded out of fashion.
Hans Christian Andersen’s eighteenth century fairy tale The Red Shoes brought their fabled power back into the public consciousness. Andersen’s heroine Karen is a peasant girl adopted into gentry, but rather than appreciating her good fortune, she aspires to riches beyond her dreams. She eventually acquires a pair of red shoes made especially for her, but she has the audacity to go dancing in them rather than attending to familial duties and showing gracious thanks for her lucky situation. Alas, once started, she cannot stop the shoes from dancing and her only respite is to ask the public executioner to chop off her feet!
The story was adapted somewhat when filmed in 1948 with Moira Shearer playing the red-footed dancer. She too chooses dance and fame over family life and is punished by plunging to her death from a balcony. The story shows the power of red shoes to reveal the true depth of their wearer’s personality – and their ability to punish a woman for attempting to overcome social boundaries in those less enlightened times.
Their potency is further developed in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wears her magic ruby pumps with their sparkly bow to return safely home. Interestingly, in Frank L Baum’s original book, Dorothy’s shoes were silver. It was only during the making of the 1939 film, with Judy Garland in the leading role, that the screenwriters realised they could make the most of the new Technicolor camera by putting her into scarlet shoes, thereby sparking a whole new era of red shoe buying.
Nowadays we can all wear red footwear without fear of reprisals or injury to beetles, thank goodness! But the essence of power remains.
Renowned designer Christian Louboutin’s signature red soles attest to a woman’s economic status and power, with an added risqué undercurrent. Those of us with less inflated bank balances can still share in the attention-grabbing power of red shoes. Choosing from the array of more budget conscious pairs when we want to show our fun personalities and add a stylish statement to any outfit, whatever the occasion.
Their association with love, lust and fiery hell might be just what you’re looking for, but if not, they can easily be tamed to suit more traditional and everyday events. They’re a significant trend for 2017/18, becoming ever more acceptable in a greater range of situations and looking even more phenomenal than ever before.