The school run has long been a pragmatic catwalk; a fashion collection inspired by lateness and tiredness but still an interesting barometer of what feels acceptable in front of the judgy gaze of a front row of parents.
Akshata Murty, wife of Rishi Sunak, made the papers for wearing slippers to take her daughters to school. This was not an absentminded mistake on the way out the door: Murty’s slippers came with chain-detailing, shearling and a £570 price tag from JW Anderson, the designer who recently outfitted Rihanna for her Super Bowl performance.
Not every school-run outfit can compete with that. But slippers worn as shoes are increasingly popular. Like trainers, leggings and pyjamas before them, slippers are no longer just home wear, but now serve a new role in the modern wardrobe. “The rise of casual footwear goes back 15 years now to the redoubtable Ugg,” says Alice Enders, director of research at media insights company Enders Analysis. “And then the pandemic lockdowns reinforced the trend of casual wear.”
Slippers as indoor shoes have historically been a signifier of sophistication and class. Prince Albert popularised the pump style slipper for men as evening wear and the influence of continental society was present in Turkish slippers and French feathered boudoir mules. Whereas the carpet slipper will forever be associated with the likes of Coronation Street’s Ena Sharples and comic strip favourite Andy Capp. The new styles upend the traditional idea of the slipper.
Mules were the first slipper to take to the catwalk. The Gucci Princetown Mule – a fur-filled backless leather-soled shoe first appeared in the spring/summer 2016 collection, but it’s been a style mainstay ever since.
Lucy Maguire, senior trends editor for fashion industry website Vogue Business, also cites singer Justin Bieber and his clothes range Drew House as another big influence.
“Bieber wore these $5 Drew House ‘smiley face’ hotel slippers from December 2018 onwards. That was the first time I saw slippers worn outside as a fashion statement but it certainly wasn’t the last. Also around the same time, with the rise of TikTok, young people were exposed to more day-in-the-life content than ever. This shows celebrities in sweats and slippers in their homes.” Seeing people in slippers in their homes became a daily experience for everyone during 2020, even if it was in a work catch-up on Zoom rather than an influencer on TikTok. Sales shot up during 2020 and the trend for slippers that worked as shoes and shoes that felt like slippers tipped into the mainstream.
“During the pandemic, not only were slippers trending but “slipper-like” shoes such as Crocs, Birkenstocks and Uggs, as people sought comfort and style for their daily walks around the neighbourhood,” says Maguire. “These footwear brands were smart, many collaborated with celebrities or luxury labels, to create limited-edition colours and customisable elements – like Jibbitz decorative show charms in the case of Crocs – so that they’ve actually taken market share from the trainers market.”
According to a recent report by industry website Business of Fashion, global trainer sales fell in 2022. Until now, sporty footwear has been the main shoe style for casual wear.
The Birkenstock Boston Clog was the real gamechanger for the slipper trend. The style was first made in 1979 and came in wool felt for indoor use. For autumn 2022 a shearling-lined leather version made to be worn outside was launched. The Boston Clog was the bestselling shoe of last year with online fashion search engine Lyst reporting that searches for the Boston increased by 593% in the first six months of 2022. A shearling version of the popular Arizona style also became a more common sight in winter 2022, when wearing socks with sandals during cold months finally took off on Britain’s streets.
Uggs are shaping up to be this year’s Boston Clog, with sales rising 105% in the last three months. The old Ugg boots first popular in the 2000s have been replaced by mini-boots called the Ugg Tasman Slipper. Louise Sole, shoe buyer at John Lewis, says: “At John Lewis we’ve seen an uplift in slipper sales. In particular, Birkenstock, Anyday and Ugg have proved popular. Ugg has seen a 67% increase versus last year. The viral UGG Tasman trend has only encouraged this, with both the camel and black being an instant sellout.” TikTok videos with the hashtag #uggtasmanslippers have over 13 million views in the past month and the Tasman keeps selling out. More and more fashion footwear brands have also launched slipper ranges. Toms, Crocs and Allbirds have all launched cosy versions of their popular styles.
Brands that previously had no association with relaxation are also moving into slippers. Now for putting your feet up, there’s Barbour Scottie puffer slippers, The North Face Thermo puffball and Puma Scuffs. All of these styles are made from the same material as puffer jackets. You can even Just Not Do It in Nike Burrows made of fleece and marshmallow-soft foam.
The luxury market has also produced new slipper styles. Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at designer retailer Matchesfashion says shearling-lined styles have sold particularly well: “The rise is driven by Birkenstock’s Arizona and Boston styles, but other bestsellers include the Marni Fussbett and Prada backless loafers which have almost sold out. Shearling slip-ons and sandals are such a great versatile option as you can wear them in the summer but also pair with socks in the colder months.”
“It’s become cool to be hyper-casual and comfortable,” says Maguire. “But while some of us enjoy looking like we’ve just thrown a look together, others still have the hottest pair of slippers possible, whether they’re Bottega Veneta waffle green slippers or platform Crocs worn as slippers, full of customised Jibbitz.”
Whatever style fits your aesthetic and your budget, slippers look set to stay. Putting the bins out has never felt so fashionable.