What's the History of Slippers? | Lands' End

What's the history of slippers?

Imagine living in a world where you didn't have the option to slip on a pair of your favorite house shoes. Yeah, that's right. Your kids would be on the loose, tracking mud inside with no law-abiding slippers to stop them in their path. Your feet would be vulnerable to the cold floors. One look at the driveway to the mailbox and you can predict what the pine needles and loose gravel would feel like. We like our slippers because their sole purpose is to protect our soles. But where did they come from? What's their backstory?

There's a history behind slippers and it crosses cultures, continents, and many linguistic interpretations of what exactly a slipper is. Are they house shoes? Or are they mules? What do we call them and why are they so popular? We'll answer those questions so you can understand where your comfort came from and why it's so important.

Where did slippers originate?

Slippers are the age-old choice when it comes to comfort and versatility. Whether they have been used as indoor shoes or as formal wear, slippers have run the gamut and continue to do so.

Slippers in The Middle East

In Morocco, a key port in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, there was the "Babouche." It's a shoe that resembles what we now know as slippers. Since shoes are not allowed on holy grounds, these easy to remove Babouche have remained choice footwear for centuries. It's possible that Morocco's influence in the trading region led other wealthy nations, like the French, to adapt the style into their own fashion.

Slippers in France

The French word for slipper is "mule." These are backless heeled shoes with a closed toe. Worn as bedroom shoes initially, mules stepped out the door as formal wear. Some people conclude that due to the backlash to the French Revolution and the wealthy in general, there remained a fear that there could be another uprising: the elite French cut back on their fashion choices, mules being one of them. Others say that mules became the go-to dinner party shoes because it didn't matter what shoes ladies were wearing when their large dresses covered all that could be seen. Why wear uncomfortable shoes if nobody could see them?

The slipper became less fashionable for the French toward the end of the century when the upper classes peeked outside and noticed there weren't any angry commoners and pitchforks outside their home. Not really, but the slipper would continue its journey toward Britain.

Slippers in Britain

Evening slippers worn by Prince Albert continued a Parisian habit in formal wear for the elite. These velvet slippers were paired with matching jackets and have continued to impact current fashion trends. Think of a man reading leather bound books in his chair with a pipe, pajamas, and a pair of slippers. That look returned in post-war America in the form of Hollywood stars in the '40s and '50s.

Slippers for everyone

The mass production of shoes and other apparel mimicked the garments of the British and French elite. Slippers would be available to the common man, at a lesser quality, but the advent of steam and later electric production processes made it cheaper to produce and easier for an average Joe to purchase.

Slippers for you

These days we keep our slippers at home. We typically do not wear them to parties, unless your kids are heading to slumber parties, and like a "gone fishing" sign on a window they let everybody know that you are very much in vacation mode. Slippers are all different. Those spa shoes, your moccasins, your fun holiday slippers ... a simple online search for a new perfect pair could take a couple hours from your day. What do we do with these myriad options? We're lucky that we can sort through the history of slippers and personalize a pair for ourselves. Take a look at these options for women, men, and kids.

Who invented slippers?

The origin of slippers is a pretty confusing story. It's not as cut and dry as the invention of the telephone, TV, or the lightbulb. Slippers were used to replace shoes inside. Whether it was about fashion, cold feet, or wanting to keep grimy boots away from the clean floors, there is a practical reason for people using slippers. Nowadays it's one of these human things that are undeniably essential for us in our own homes.


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