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The joy of slippers

There is a reason why I started a slippers brand: it’s because I love slippers! I have long felt that slippers are a criminally overlooked member of the footwear family, sadly marginalised by their more glamorous outdoor cousins.  Slippers seem to have received little attention because designers tend primarily to focus on things we wear when other people are around. Slippers have never been thought of as an item of clothing that are for show and therefore not much attention has been paid to making them look good.

It does not help that slippers always seem to have unflattering associations with giving up on life and giving in to getting old (“grandpa stays at home with his pipe and slippers” etc). Their image has also not been enhanced by the sort of slippers that have been available: slippers have historically tended to be poorly made items which might look just about acceptable when new but get old and shabby very quickly. Perhaps traditionally, slippers have been considered simply functional – something to keep your feet off cold floors as you schlep around doing the housework, so there was no need for good looking or high-quality slippers? 

I was not keen on slippers as a child. The joy of slippers is definitely an adult thing. I remember my parents nagging me and my brother to put our slippers on. They were apparently necessary to protect our feet from cold and from sharp hazards – not sure why really, since we lived in a warm house with carpets and there was not much in the way of hazards for small feet except stray Lego bricks. I remember having bright red or blue slippers with rubber, beige coloured soles and a motif on the top. I have a feeling that some of those motifs featured Florence or Dougal from The Magic Roundabout but that might be false memory syndrome – possibly conflated with the TV characters that were on a certain type of little cake at the time (if you were a child in the 1970s, you might know what I am talking about…). I liked slippers for their motifs but did not really enjoy wearing them. Neither did my little bro and I am fairly sure that we were not unusual in that way. Children do generally seem to prefer to go barefoot and cannot be bothered with footwear indoors. Some years ago, when my nephew was a little boy, I bought him some posh slippers – at his request. He loved them but would kick them off when he sat down to do something – usually at his computer (where he is probably still sitting right now) – and then forget about them for the rest of the day. Perhaps it is partly because children do not seem to feel the cold very much. It has been nearly two decades since fighting battles with my small daughter trying to get her to wear a coat to walk to infants’ school but the psychological scars remain (on me, not her). 

‘The Shaffay Signature collection’

As for adults, one is either a slippers person or one is not. I imagine that a non-slippers person would not look twice at something headed The Joy of Slippers, so I’m guessing that, if you are reading this, then you are a slippers person. If you are indeed a slippers person, you probably wear slippers all the time when you are at home. If you are a true aficionado, you take them when you go to stay with friends too. I wear mine constantly from the moment I wake up until I drop off to sleep at night. If I am at home (or someone else’s home) my feet are in slippers. The true slipper aficionado can silently locate their slippers beside the bed in the dark with their feet, without disturbing a slumbering partner beside them, still half asleep and literally with their eyes closed. Is it partly a cold feet thing..? Cold feet slippers people wear their slippers continually, while hot feet slippers people enjoy wearing their slippers (as long as they are not foot-stiflingly fluffy (can you stifle a foot..?)) but are not glued to them in the same way? As you will imagine, I have had a lot of conversations about slippers and continue to have them at every opportunity. I learned from those conversations that both cold feet and hot feet slippers people want elegant slippers that are warm in winter but not too warm in summer. They all wanted a stylish alternative to what they were wearing around the house – an alternative slides/flip flops for hot feet slippers people and to bulky, fluffy numbers for the cold footers. In order to achieve this balance, we made our Signature Collection – our first collection of luxury slippers – from soft Nappa leather and lined them with a not-too-thick layer of soft pile. Warm but not too warm. Comfortable and elegant in every season.

Other conversations have centred around the slippers with socks – yes or no debate. According to some, slippers with socks is a style faux pas. I acknowledge that slippers without socks is probably a more elegant look – but remember that sandals with socks was always a fashion faux pas too, until a couple of years ago when that sliders with socks look was on young feet all over London. (It was pretty hideous, mind you.) I confess that I almost always wear my slippers with socks. Perhaps in the end, this question divides the hot feet slippers people from the cold feet slippers people..? I will look into it!

In many parts of the world, everyone is a slippers person. I have spent most of my adult life in China where no one wears their shoes indoors. Visitors invariably remove their outdoor shoes at the front door and, since the Chinese tend not to enjoy wandering around in their socks, hosts will usually provide some slippers for them to wear. Similarly, every hotel room in China provides a pair of slippers for each guest. The higher quality the hotel, the better the slippers of course but even the cheapest rooms come with something resembling a pair of slippers even if it is apparently made from tissue paper. In the UK, slippers are commonly provided only by high-end hotels and not by smaller independent hotels or B&Bs. However, around a decade ago, when the Chinese began to travel overseas in large numbers and hotels were learning how to compete for their patronage, hoteliers realised quite quickly that hotel slippers are important for Chinese visitors. They do not really mind if the slippers are poor quality, they just do not want to schlep around in their socks. 

The Paris Luxury Slipper
‘The Paris’

Having lived in China and the Middle East, I now find it very strange that we in the UK do not automatically take off our shoes when we go into people’s homes, potentially walking grit and dirt into their carpets, especially as it rains a lot over here so our shoes are often wet. Carpets are much more expensive than slippers after all. My theory is that we would really prefer people to take off their shoes when they come into our homes but cannot bear to ask them to do so. Instead, visitors have the embarrassment of arriving and making I’m taking off my shoes movements (because they do not want to ask directly whether indeed they should do so, because that might put their host in the invidious position of having to say yes please and feel that they are being too demanding) whilst trying to continue the greetings and small talk. It is then up to the host to either wait awkwardly for this operation to be completed or quickly offer assurances that there is no need. If we all had spare slippers ready for guests, like the Chinese do, we could spare ourselves one of the many embarrassments we Brits are so terrified of. (I have been reading “Watching the English“ by the anthropologist Kate Fox who believes that inhibition and fear of embarrassment are central to the English character and that that is why we often seem cold or standoffish to foreigners. I wish I had read it years ago. At least I now know what to tell foreign friends, rather than relying on “no honestly, we are very friendly when you get to know us”.)

If you are a work from home slippers person, you definitely need a great-looking pair of slippers. It is good psychology to feel properly dressed for work; it makes you feel productive and presentable even when no colleague or client is likely to see your feet. And of course, the way you feel has a substantial impact on how productive you actually will be. That is surely a big part of the reason why offices have dress codes. Plus, if you work from home, it is likely that you spend most of your time at home (that is, unless you are very young and energetic and do all your relaxing and socialising out and about). Who wants to spend all day in a pair of scruffy old schleppers? Scruffy feet will make you feel scruffy, even if the rest of you is beautifully turned out. A pair of well-made, comfortable, elegant slippers is the order of the day.

Have you noticed that there has been a major revolution in loungewear over the last decade or so? We now buy clothes specifically for wearing at home. Back in the day, loungewear wasn’t a thing: you just relegated your old, comfortable clothes to the “around the house” category. There is a word for those worn, comfy clothes: huffle-buffs. The word doesn’t shout elegance, does it? Thankfully, these days, almost every women’s clothing brand includes a range of loungewear and much of it is gorgeous. There are lots of lovely, soft cashmere or jersey trousers, and elegant cardigans and tops made just for relaxing in. Remember when all joggers and sweatshirts were ugly, unshapely items that you would only wear to keep warm between home and gym? Isn’t it wonderful that there are now so many that are elegant enough to entertain in, or even go out in? The loungewear revolution seemed to speed up exponentially during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, with everyone at home whether they liked it or not. But there has been no revolution of slippers. Slippers have simply not kept up with loungewear. There really are not enough elegant slippers to complement all this elegant loungewear. The trend over the last year or so has been for bulky, fluffy slippers. Those slippers are available in any price range from rock bottom to designer level. I wanted something sleeker: slippers with clean lines; slippers that are as stylish as shoes but made for indoor wear; slippers that are strong and long-lasting but soft and wearable. Slippers that are modern and elegant, without a hint of scruffiness and, at the same time, so comfortable that I do not want to take them off. 

The Founder, Anna Elshafei

I do not quite understand the appeal of big slippers but perhaps chunky, fluffy slippers are your thing. Whatever your taste, it is important to make sure that your slippers are good for your feet or, at the very least, do not cause you problems, especially if you are working from home or moving around in them a lot each day. If you are concerned that your feet sweat (and about the…um…effects of that), the key is to wear slippers that are not made with too much glue That probably means you need to avoid cheaper slippers and go for the higher quality and more luxury end of the market. Slippers that are too flat and offer very little support might damage your feet if you wear them for extended periods, potentially even causing conditions such as plantar fasciiatis (see www.footcentregroup.com.au/). In designing Shaffay slippers, we added a small, concealed wedge at the heel in order to give a slight lift and brought the uppers relatively high up the front and side of the foot to provide support, while still allowing you to slip them on and off easily.

Slippers are an important part of home for me. The feeling of kicking off shoes and slipping on soft, comfortable slippers encapsulates the relief and relaxation of returning home. As I have got older, I enjoy being at home more and more. Perhaps that is true of most of us and begins when we first have homes of our own? I have noticed that now that my daughter has her own place, she likes to be in it a lot and has enjoyed being able to work at home over the last couple of years (in her Shaffay slippers, of course).  

There is clearly a risk of getting too earnest here! I know that I am obsessed with slippers – you have probably gathered that by now – and it is possible to be a bit too serious about them. Slippers are not important in the scheme of things. And posh slippers definitely are not. But, without taking it all too seriously, it really is rather lovely to feel elegant at home. And a pair of soft, luxury slippers certainly helps!

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