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What do the ruby red shoes mean?

What do the ruby red shoes mean?

Ruby red shoes hold deep symbolic meaning and have a rich history in film, literature, and culture. The vibrant hue of ruby red evokes passion and desire. When translated onto a shoe, the color takes on additional layers of meaning related to femininity, power, transformation, and more.

The History of Ruby Red Shoes

Shoes dyed a rich, red hue have been popular since the 16th century. During the Victorian era, dyeing shoes red using Brazilian cochineal dye was especially fashionable. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s and film’s Golden Age that ruby red slippers truly cemented themselves as iconic.

In the 1900 children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy wears silver shoes. However, when MGM adapted the book into the beloved 1939 film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, they made a key change – Dorothy’s shoes became ruby red. Against the Technicolor backdrop of the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy’s glittering red shoes stood out. From then on, ruby red slippers became inextricably linked to the film and to Dorothy’s journey over the rainbow.

Ruby red shoes went on to became symbols of Old Hollywood glamor in the 1940s and 50s. Stars like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Elizabeth Taylor wore red heels that evoked Dorothy’s slippers. Fashion houses like Christian Louboutin also famously adopted the red sole and heel, keeping ruby red footwear an iconic fixture in pop culture.

Ruby Red Symbolism

So why are Dorothy’s shoes red? And what meaning do ruby red shoes hold in culture and psychology?

Passion and Desire

Red is commonly associated with passion, romance, and desire. Ruby red shoes therefore connect to sensuality. Dorothy is on the journey from girl to woman – the red shoes represent that transformation, hinting at Dorothy’s awakening femininity and adulthood.

Courage and Confidence

Following the Yellow Brick Road in ruby red slippers, Dorothy finds the courage and confidence to embark on her epic quest. The magical shoes represent Dorothy’s inner power – she just needed to start walking.

There’s No Place Like Home

Dorothy’s red shoes carry her home to Kansas, representing her desire for home, family, roots, and belonging. Despite her adventures in Oz, Dorothy longs for the comfort and familiarity of her home.

Ruby Red Shoe Symbol Meaning
Passion and desire Represents Dorothy’s awakening femininity and adulthood
Courage and confidence The shoes represent Dorothy’s inner power to embark on her quest
There’s no place like home Dorothy’s desire for home, family, roots and belonging


In the book, Dorothy’s silver shoes are transformed to magical ruby red slippers in the film. The vibrant red shoes represent Dorothy’s personal transformation on her journey. She starts as an innocent girl and returns from Oz as a mature, powerful young woman.


Ruby red is a color deeply linked to femininity and the stereotypical associations of red with women – boldness, passion, lovesickness. Dorothy’s slippers connect her to traditional female archetypes.

At the same time, as an icon of female empowerment, Dorothy subverts traditional gender roles of the time. Her ruby red slippers are a feminist symbol of female strength.


The shoes contain magic and power that protected Dorothy, ultimately helping bring down the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda tells Dorothy to never take off the powerful shoes. When Dorothy clicks her heels together, she is able to harness and control their power to travel through space and time.

Beyond the film, ruby red slippers are empowering cultural symbols of the magic within all women.

Ruby Red Slippers in Pop Culture

Ruby red slippers became iconic after The Wizard of Oz. They continue to be referenced, reinvented, and reimagined in films, TV shows, music videos, fashion editorials, and more.

Film References

  • In Disney’s Enchanted, Giselle wears ruby slippers as a nod to her similar fish-out-of-water journey from animated Andalasia to real-world New York City.
  • In Pleasantville, a colorized version of Ruby’s red shoes appear as symbolic motif, representing freedom and passion.
  • Dorothy Gale’s iconic shoes served as inspiration for the empowering red boots Beatrix Kiddo wears in Kill Bill.

TV References

  • On Mad Men, Don Draper dates a woman who wears red heels reminiscent of Dorothy’s slippers.
  • In an episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor companions wear ruby slippers while imprisoned by the wicked Carrionites.
  • On Glee, Kurt Hummel wears sparkling red shoes as he clicks the heels together, wishing to find his true home.

Music References

  • Katy Perry wears magical light up ruby shoes in her music video for Firework.
  • The Scissor Sisters’ video for Let’s Have a Kiki features ruby red pumps.
  • Taylor Swift’s song Better Than Revenge references Dorothy’s red shoes.

Pop culture references keep Dorothy’s ruby slippers relevant. The iconic shoes continue inspiring new generations.

Ruby Red Shoes in Fashion

Ruby red shoes hold an important place in fashion history and continue influencing shoe design today.

A Brief History

  • During the 16th century, red shoes dyed with Brazilian cochineal became popular in Europe.
  • In the 1800s, heels and slippers in rich shades of red were fashionable.
  • Ruby red slippers rose to fame after The Wizard of Oz in 1939.
  • Christian Louboutin made his red-soled stilettos iconic in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • Today, ruby red shoes from Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, and Valentino carry on the red shoe tradition.

Modern Red Shoe Design

Contemporary designers reinvent ruby red shoes in edgy, innovative ways while also paying homage to their rich past:

  • Glittering heels: Gianvito Rossi, Saint Laurent
  • Retro-inspired pumps: Gucci, Miu Miu, Salvatore Ferragamo
  • Whimsical flats: Charlotte Olympia, Sophia Webster
  • Decadent platforms: Alexander McQueen, Christian Louboutin

On today’s runways, ruby red shoes continue spotlighting women’s strength and creativity.


Ruby red slippers hold symbolic meaning related to femininity, empowerment, passion, desire, and home. From The Wizard of Oz to fashion runways, ruby red shoes remain iconic. Clicking the heels of her magical red shoes, Dorothy left lasting cultural impact and continues inspiring women today.