In celebration of slippers

by Lorin Michel Sunday, March 13, 2011 10:31 PM

I’m a big fan of slippers. I don’t know when it happened, though I suspect it started when I was in 8th grade and my mother brought home a pair of tan suede leather moccasins, with a suede leather tie and fringe. They had a faux fur foam insole and I lived in them. I think she bought them at Barker’s, Hyde Park, New York’s version of Target many years before there was a Target.

Slippers are worn by nearly every culture in the world, with both men and women slipping their feet into something more comfortable on a regular basis. They originate from sandals dating back to ancient Egypt, as so many things do. The earliest recorded discussion of slippers appears in a description by a Southern Song dynasty soldier describing two types of not-quite shoes he witnessed in what is now Vietnam. These slippers, like my earliest moccasins, had a leather bottom so that the wearers could walk outside comfortably. One type had a small post with a mushroom shape atop; the post was worn between the toes, similar to today’s flip-flops (full disclosure: also a fan); another style had a cross-shaped leather cover across the foot, connecting to the leather sole.

People in Japan have long revered slippers. These are a people whose customs dictate that they take their shoes off when entering homes, including their own. When Westerners first descended on the island country during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the Japanese invented a special type of slipper that the ‘round eyes’ could pull over their boots. If you visit Japan today, you’ll find slippers in every hotel or inn you check into.

The rest of the western world slips into slippers most mornings, sometimes during the night, and for those of us who work out of the home, all day.

The earliest record of the English word for slipper occurred in 1478 and was derived from the verb ‘to slip,’ describing something one slips their foot into.

The United Kingdom’s traditional slipper is the Albert, from the Victoria era and Prince Albert. Naturally it’s velvet with a quilted silk lining and a leather sole.

The first ballet slipper was created by Marie Ann Cupis de Camargo of the Royal Ballet in the 1700s. Salvatore Capezio advanced the ballet slipper in 1887 in New York City, and Jacob Bloch of Russia made slippers of leather in 1932.

Cinderella, who, believe it or not, may have originated in classical antiquity, wore sandals in the earliest incarnation of her story. She was called Rhosopis then. It wasn’t until 1697 that the glass slipper was first introduced by the French author Charles Perrault.

Dorothy, from the L. Frank Baum story The Wizard of Oz and famously played by Judy Garland, wore ruby slippers. But they had heels. Talk about something from the Wicked Witch.

Today’s slippers include fleece-lined, leather loafers, corduroy slip-ons, and suede moccasins.  

My slippers currently include a pair of the fleece-lined variety, a faux-suede slip-on, and yep – those old moccasins from 8th grade. I still have them. I still love them. I still celebrate them.

Though the foam insole needs replaced.


UPDATE: My good friend Roy sends along these beautiful slippers, which he lovingly calls "footini."

Slippers and an ice-cold, grey goose martini, slightly dirty, extra olives. That's a celebration unto itself.

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live out loud

Comments (1) -

3/16/2011 9:28:10 AM #

OK, I have an opinion about slippers. Not just any slippers. I discovered Uggs a few years ago. My personal Uggs are chocolate brown with a hard soul (so I don't even have to take them off when I go outside to feed my stray cats) and my feet slip into the fluff with a little moan that is saved only for foot language. With my Uggs, I had discovered a sense of comfort and total peace that wasn't previously known to me.

Usually my feet get too hot, so I wasn't sure about these Uggs that everybody wears so casually in Southern California. My parents who visit from the midwest are continuously baffled by the bizarre fashion statement at the beach where the young girls wear short shorts and spaghetti strapped tops with their large, bulky (and not-so-pretty) Uggs. Being from the midwest, such winter-wear is not to be messed with!

Anyway, I went for the backless style. A little warmth, a lot of comfort. I took them wherever I went. My feet yearned for them during each long day. I brought them to work so I could secretly luxuriate in them under my desk where no one would know my requisite heels were tucked neatly to the side!

Alas, my poor Uggs have seen better days. I have worn them so much, the sheepskin pad is down to the harder surface underneath. I took them to be repaired. "Oh yes," said the burly repair guy, "of course, we can repair Uggs." Reluctantly, I left my precious Uggs with him, anxiously awaiting the return of that original sheepskin luxury.

What I got in return was a total bastardization of my precious Uggs. The repair amounted to a slab of fuzzy foam glued on TOP of the leftover sheepskin. I looked at the guy, this expert in footcare. "WTF? I thought you said you could repair Uggs?" He gave me that condescending look that experts give to novices. "Do you know how much it would cost to replace that with a sheepskin insole?" I replied, "uh, I don't know, but I don't remember CARING! I want my Uggs."

Imagine my horror! My Uggs had been abused! Neglected. Reduced to some ordinary, more pedestrian foot fare. I had let a non-believer touch them! Would they ever be the same? Would they ever forgive me? Would I have to spent $100 for a new pair?

The quest continues. I will bravely journey on in search of a true Uggs aficionado; an Uggologist, if you will. I need a fellow believer to undo this atrocity and return my Uggs to their original glory. Even in their slightly altered condition, my Uggs are not just a slipper. They are a luxurious footcare experience and need to be treated with appropriate reverence.

So in conclusion, today I celebrate the hope I have for the return of my damaged Uggs. Hopefully before the next So Cal version of a cold spell.

Bobbi Jankovich United States

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