Thanks to Hollywood and Disney, slippers hold a particular place in the popular culture of the United States. Think of Dorothy’s ruby slippers or Cinderella’s glass slippers. Both contained magic, led their wearers on adventures, and, ultimately, brought them home to happy endings. The “slippers” in those fairy tales were what we might consider to be shoes in the real world. They were worn outside and seemed to be less than comfortable. What we at Down Etc think about when we discuss slippers are the indoor shoes we don when we get home and kick off what we wore to work, play, and exercise. In researching slippers, here is some of what we have found.
The Ritual of Slippers
The tradition of exchanging one’s outdoor shoes for slippers upon entering the home is widely followed in Asian and other countries around the world. It is a habit of many, but not a custom, in the United States. An article in The Atlantic detailing the history and tradition of leaving outside shoes at the door, notes slippers can “symbolize the domestic space, the feeling of leaving the worries of the world at the door, and the safety and comfort that only one’s abode can offer.” We agree that home—and the bedroom, in particular—should be an oasis from the world. Stepping into slippers upon coming home can mark entry into that oasis.
Slippers of Note
Earnest Journal provides a brief history, identifying several interesting slippers of note. For example, the Prince Albert Slipper, “The discerning gentleman’s house shoe, which gained popularity in the 1840s, [and] is said to have been designed by Prince Albert himself. The Albert slipper has an extended vamp (the upper part), quilted lining, and leather sole. Initially designed for Victorian men hosting dinner parties, and to be teamed with a matching smoking jacket, this design staple was later synonymous with Hollywood greats, such as Clarke Gable.” In contrast, “The slippers historically worn by the Pope were an elaborate affair. Bright red, to represent the blood of martyrs and Christ’s own bloodied feet in his final moments, they were handmade from silk or satin and decorated with gold thread. A gold cross garnished with rubies completed the ornate spectacle. The Pope wore these slippers inside his residences, rather than the red leather shoes he would wear outside, and it was custom that any pilgrim having an audience with the Pope had to kneel and kiss one of his slippers.”
For a more detailed description of slippers, along with some amazing photographic examples, check out Foot Talk’s blog, “A very short history of Slippers.” You will see slippers through the ages ranging from a pair made of woven rope and radio-carbon dated back at least 10,000 years to modern slippers made of synthetic materials.
Keeping the Dirt Out
Some argue it is cleaner to leave shoes at the door. This may be true, but there are different opinions on whether it is necessary to maintain a healthy home. The Today Show anchors recently discussed the findings of Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona. He studied the bacteria on the bottom of shoes and found, “If you wear shoes for more than a month, 93 percent will have fecal bacteria on the bottom of them.” An article in the New York Times recognized Dr. Gerba’s findings, but also cited a food microbiologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey who noted that “in the hierarchy of potential health hazards at home, bacteria-caked shoes rank comparatively low.” Further, if you have pets, unless you wash their paws after every walk, they will track into your home whatever they have walked through. However, since it is possible to transmit germs from the floor to your hands and mouth, it does not hurt to leave your shoes at the door to limit those germs as much as possible.
Introducing Slippers into Your Home
Think about the slippers waiting for you in your room when you check into a hotel. Provide your family and your guests with the same VIP service by keeping our pre-packaged, one-time use, hotel quality slippers handy. Place them at the front door for each member of the family and a few extras for guests. Be sure to keep a variety of sizes to fit men, women, and children.
Enjoy Down Etc's bestselling Closed Toe Slide Slippers and Closed Toe Striped Velour Slippers. These hotel quality, one-time-use, cotton plush and ribbed velour slippers are closed toe with a white plush upper and a sole made of gray microsuede with nonskid dots. They are packaged in an individual poly bag. For the kids, consider the Cheetah Print Closed Toe Slide Slipper. The upper is a brown and camel animal print and the sole is made of gray microsuede. Keep them by your front door for an easy and comfortable shoe swap when you come home or guests come to visit. You can ask guests to remove their shoes without leaving them feeling bare-footed. It creates a ritual for the home and also adds a personal comfort for each of your guests.
Updated Links July 29, 2022. Cover image updated September 26, 2022.