Lockdown Footwear

There’s a lot we don’t know right now. We don’t know what the end of the current health crisis will look like, or how we get there. We don’t know which parts of normality will come back, and which parts will be transformed. What we do know, at least, is how much we owe to the people who’ve come to be recognized as “essential”: in healthcare and the emergency services, but also logistics and manufacturing; cooks, cleaners, and every other practical person who’s holding things together.

For the rest of us, this has all meant a lot of time at home, getting reacquainted with our kitchen equipment and loungewear. If one of the smaller losses has been opportunities to enjoy the spring weather (and crucially, the brighter, lighter clothes that the new season justifies), one of the small pleasures might be constructing an alternative uniform for working from home in these strange weeks. In that spirit, here’s my guide to quarantine footwear.

If you want the simplest of coverings (and don’t fancy trying to re-boot the craze for crocs just yet) then the hotel-style slipper is a solid bet. Uniqlo makes a cheap and likeable pair.

Moving onto something a bit more versatile, a classic warm-weather option is the espadrille. Often worn as a beach or holiday shoe, it’s comfortable and lightweight as a house shoe, and can serve as a reminder of the places you want to visit when you can. The classic Spanish brand is Castañer, while Drake’s have a pleasing striped model in two colours that is the footwear equivalent of an Oxford cloth button down. A more modern take comes from London-based MULO, offered in both suede and sustainably-sourced linen. The Breton stripe stands out in particular.

Another soft option is the moccasin, a comfortable, foldable, unstructured loafer with a stitched apron. Consider the Portuguese-made La Portegna slipper models in suede. On the other hand, if these all sound too continental, as you look ruefully across at your rack of Barbour jackets and brush the sheepdog hairs from your corduroy, look no further than traditional British sheepskin slippers from Drapers of Glastonbury.

For something more substantial and luxurious, the king of house shoes is the velvet slipper. You might not know the name, but Bowhill and Elliott have been making classic Albert slippers in the East of England for generations. While their small workshop is dwarfed by the factories of Northampton, over the years they have made slippers for countless well-known English shoemakers and international luxury brands, at one point supplying ten Royal Warrant holders. Most models are made to order, and in custom orders the velvet upper, silk lining and embroidery can all be chosen individually. MTO takes about 6 weeks. For a sumptuous ready to wear option, consider Ralph Lauren’s Italian-made offerings, slipper specialist Donhall and Bell, or any good shoemaker such as Edward Green.

Albert-style slippers are a house shoe with solid (cemented) sole, meaning they are soft but can be worn outdoors. Moving one step further towards a traditional shoe, there is the Belgian loafer. Baudoin and Lange’s Sagan Classic has created a buzz in recent years. It’s a fully handmade, unlined loafer with a combination of Goodyear welt and cement to make a soft but durable shoe. There’s currently also a limited 100-piece run Sagan Edition Lune made with a nubuck sole, designed specifically for indoor wear.

Finally, going all the way to a fully-welted shoe, there’s always the option of wearing leather-soled, unlined loafers. I like Meermin’s “flex goodyear” suede models, but there are also good options from Carmina and the “leisure hand sewn” models from Alden.

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Alexander Freeling

Alex is a freelance writer and literature professor based in the UK. These pursuits turned out to share a theme: the history and practice of style. He is very slowly improving at DIY suit alterations.

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1 thought on “Lockdown Footwear

  1. Been curious about the La Portegnas for years. LL Bean has some great shearling moccasin slippers that work well for situations like this. I’ve been leaning heavily on my Jay Butler loafers for in home wear – moccasin style construction and very soft wearing (almost like drivers) from a thin leather sole.

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