Where the price points are

One woman’s “expensive” is another woman’s “investment,” I suppose. To get a better grip on these terms, I turn to Plumcake’s explanation of the hierarchy of the shoe biz:

“Inexpensive” (under $100) you have your lower-end department store shoes, Payless, Target, Wal-Mart; teetering on the upper level of inexpensive is Nine West, DSW etc. I do not say it is impossible to find an investment shoe at this level, but I have not come across one.

“Designer” ($100-300) will generally get you decently-made department store house brands and your entry-level luxury lines (Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Juicy Couture); there are some excellent values to be had in this range, particularly if you pay attention to construction and not the label. If all your shoes come from this category, pat yourself on the back, you’re doing well. Stuart Weitzman, Delman, and Cole Haan are reliable heavy hitters in this price range.

“Premium Designer” ($300-600) is where the committed shoe junkie lives. In this category your shoes will be crafted in Italy, France or Spain of excellent materials. Most of the designers who occupy the “Ultra Premium” category have a home base here including most non-runway shoes from Manolo, Chanel, Dior, Jimmy Choo and Prada.

“Ultra Premium” (over $600) is the shoe as art form. These are often made of exotic skins or feathers that are no longer allowed to be collected (they get them from the archives of old feather houses); these shoes will be limited edition and usually available in boutique only.

Your mileage, of course, may vary. I suspect that there will be a certain amount of eye-rolling on my side of the gender divide; I can say only that most of my shoes these days cost right around $100.


  1. fillyjonk »

    23 November 2008 · 4:30 pm

    Juicy Couture makes shoes? Do they have “JUICY” emblazoned on the back of the heel?

    There’s another category that you may have missed: solidly-made shoes designed by people who understand the mechanics of feet. (Or maybe that’s some of the “basic designer” labels). Most of my shoes fall into that category, because I’m on my feet A LOT, I have some semi-congenital foot issues (pronation is just one of them), and I have to choose shoes that don’t wind up crippling me by the end of the day – SAS, Birkenstock (ugly as they are, they work), and some of the other German or British brands, like Haflinger and Hotter fall into this category.

    I suspect that the “ultra premium” shoes serve the same semiotic purpose that the long, heavily manicured nails on women serve: an obvious marker of “I don’t have to work for a living” – so they don’t spend enough time on their feet to put expensive shoes (or their Achilles’ tendons) at risk.

  2. CGHill »

    23 November 2008 · 4:41 pm

    Well, it wasn’t my set of categories; apparently this is the way that the shoe biz, or at least that particular segment of it, classifies things. And Birks have a market niche, despite snarky detractors.

  3. McGehee »

    23 November 2008 · 5:12 pm

    Hmmm. The four categories in my shoe hierarchy are (1) boots, (2) shoes, (3) flip-flops, and (4) old shoes I can wear as slippers.

    Flip-flops only outrank old-shoe slippers because I can wear flip-flops as flip-flops when they’re new.

  4. Tatyana »

    23 November 2008 · 8:26 pm

    McG, this is not the first time when Chaz post something related to WOMEN’ shoes you reply about YOUR habits.
    I don’t know what to think of your gender.

  5. Rhiannon »

    24 November 2008 · 5:19 am

    Far be it from me to deny someone the chance to indulge in a little imaginary class warfare, but most of my shoes are from the “ultra premium” category and every single pair was bought one bag lunch at a time. I work for a living, and part of the reason I work is so I can afford to surround myself with things that bring me joy. A pair of pale blue watercolor heels made out of archival anaconda for Dior –where each scale is hand-painted and the heel is carved start-to-finish by a single artisan– brings me incredible joy.

    A shoe like that isn’t just a work of tremendous skill and beauty; it’s a piece of cultural history. The shoe I buy and wear today is the shoe that in 40 years will be in a costume institute; in a hundred it will be in a museum, an example of the finest product the most talented artists and artisans of the day could create, and I will have been a part of that.

    That’s special to me. So if I walk by in my hard-earned thousand dollar shoes and someone wants to sniff and dismiss me as some pampered creature with more money than sense because it’s easier or more fun to be bigoted then there’s not much I can do about it. I guess the only thing I can wonder is what in their lives gives them the same sort of joy I get from living in and with extraordinary works of art, and then wonder what they’re doing with it now.

  6. CGHill »

    24 November 2008 · 7:42 am

    They’re probably down at Payless, buying the same $30 shoe for the third time because the first one broke a heel and the second one’s buckle is peeling something awful.

  7. CGHill »

    25 November 2008 · 6:56 pm

    I’m reprinting this comment from Juliet on Plumcake’s original post at Manolo for the Big Girl, simply because it seems to fit here too:

    “…one pair of $300 shoes is better than ten $30 dollar ones.”


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