You might have spotted this story concerning pop star Lady Gaga’s interesting choice of footwear. As a culture warrior, my first thought of course is about the fall of society and propriety, but a trained eye might notice something completely different.
I used to work at a company that made steel molds for the plastic industry. It is an involved process.
In order to build a plastic mold, first a ceramic design is sculpted carefully by hand. Precise measurements are made and a computer model is generated for later use.
The types of plastic are considered, will it be strong enough to carry the desired load for the product (in this case 100+ pounds), what is the mix needed and what type of steel is best to use given these parameters?
Blueprints are drawn for the design of the mold, showing where each cut, screw hole and pin will be placed. Ejector pins, guide pins and locking screw locations, are all carefully planned during this process.
Once the mold design is finalized, the steel has to be ordered. After it arrives it has to be ground flat and square on all sides.
The steel is baked and treated so it can withstand the constant pounding produced by the molding process.
The pattern for the actual piece is then cut into the steel using a CNC machine that has been programed with the exact pattern via a CAM program such as Mastercam.
Next, the water lines are drilled and then screw holes and pins using hardened drills that can cut through steel. All of this has to be highly lubricated as well to keep the cutters from seizing up during the process. The greatest care must be made to be sure that none of these cuts go through the pattern or come too close to it for fear of weakening the mold.
Then the pattern is polished by hand using small sticks of various grits. It is the most labor intensive part of the process.
When complete, the mold is tested, and the pieces created are checked. Any adjustments that might be necessary are made.
Only then can the mold be put into production.
The entire process, even if nothing goes wrong, (cracks in the steel, misplaced cuts etc…) is an expensive one in man hours and skilled labor (hundreds of thousands of dollars minimum). A potential manufacturer needs to convince a financier that they will be able to sell enough of the product at the desired price point to not only recover these and the other associated costs, but make a profit.
Which brings us to Lady Gaga’s heels on her $4500 shoes.
Wealthy investors concluded that enough rich (or stupid or both) people would pay $4500 for shoes with penis heels to begin every costly step that I described above. The expensive manufacturing infrastructure necessary for this product, the pay for dozens of skilled and unskilled workers at each level needed over time, the capital overhead, raw materials, they financed the lot in the hopes of increasing their wealth by selling this interesting product to other wealthy people.
So, when you look at Lady Gaga’s ridiculous heels, remember they are more than just another shock attempt by an overrated celeb. They are the final result of capitalism in action creating jobs and putting food on the table of families that, in all likelihood, will never in their lives enter a shop where this product is sold.