Why Aren’t You Wearing Slip-On Shoes?
Photograph by Paul Hempstead
In the shoe world, big changes are afoot. From cork-soled clogs to leather mules and elasticated sneakers, slip-on shoes are everywhere. Exquisitely comfortable, louche, and with occasional technical-wear influences, today’s most notable footwear exports are laceless, designed to be slipped on. If the past few years in footwear gave us ironically ugly dad sneakers, the future is about souped-up grandad slippers.
The recent boom in this divisive new iteration of casual of footwear can perhaps be traced back to Balenciaga’s sock-like Speed sneaker, which Vogue called the shoe of 2017. While the Speed continues to be a popular style from the brand, it has been followed by a new generation of lace-eschewing, slip-on footwear.
More broadly, the increasing popularity of high-fashion sliders and the normalisation of socks and sandals could be seen as a bellwether. The chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Rishi Sunak drew attention last week for rocking a “so wrong it’s right” pair of Palm Angels slides and white sports socks while preparing a speech for the UK budget. Largely seen as a questionable play to appeal to younger voters, it also showed that uber-casual footwear had taken root. Nothing demystifies a trend quite like its adoption by a Tory politician.
Messrs Park Hae-soo, Tripathi Anupam, Lee Jung-jae and Oh Young-soo in Squid Game (2021). Photograph by Mr Noh Juan, courtesy of Netflix
The main tastemaker responsible for the shift to slip-on shoes is surely Mr Kanye West, a man known for his flair for creating footwear marmite. From the foam runners to the 450s, most of the artist’s notable outputs for the Yeezy brand are slip-on by design; orthopaedic spaceships designed expressly for comfort, clout and to elicit anger from people on the internet. One of the most recent examples is the Yeezy Knit Runners: fuzzy, sulfur-coloured sneakers that sit somewhere between squashed lemons and house slippers, they are nonetheless some of the most interesting, buzzed-about shoes in the world right now. “They’re fucking stupid. I want them,” summed up one user on the /r/sneakers reddit forum.
Most recently, the slip-on craze has moved beyond Kanye and sneakerheads and straight into the arena of mainstream pop culture. In Netflix’s hugely successful South Korean drama Squid Game, contestants in a fictional gameshow battle to stay alive and win a life-changing amount of cash, while wearing a uniform of green tracksuits and schoolyard plimsolls. This seemingly small styling detail caused a 7,800 per cent uptick in the sale of that particular model of white Vans, made last-minute Halloween costumes a cinch and cemented the slip-on shoe as one of the biggest trends on the year.
And it’s not just Vans that have slipped into the wider discourse. Even the most derided of slip-on shoes has experienced a celebrity endorsed revival of late, with shares in Crocs soaring 200 per cent in the past 12 months. It probably hasn’t hurt that Mr Nicholas Braun, star of Succession, wore Crocs for the 2020 Emmys and that this year, and Questlove sported a gold pair to the Oscars. There’s something satisfyingly unserious about it; shoes that are easy to wear, that combine the cultural clout of fashionable sneakers with the comfort of house slippers and the nonchalance of sandals.
“This is footwear that speaks to the moment. The currently sartorial mood in menswear is a bit ‘meh, do whatever you want’, and we’re perhaps all the better off for it”
So, how to slip into the action yourself? Happily, there are currently a wealth of options out there that are ideal for the winter. Givenchy recently dropped its suitably named Marshmallow clogs, a futuristic shoe fitted with fuzzy shearling uppers, while Reebok’s Beatnik clogs are like puffer jackets for your feet. Step into The North Face’s quilted ripstop mules and the ground becomes a celestial expanse of squishy cloud. Yuketen, the trusty LA-based brand run by Japanese designer Mr Yuki Matsuda, has a sophisticated selection of suede clogs that are long-wearing and stylish.
No brand has nailed the slipper trend quite like Suicoke. The cult Japanese footwear innovator has spent the past few seasons collaborating with an impressive list of designers including Moncler, John Elliott, Alanui, TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist. and The Elder Statesman. Managing to bypass any hint of predictable brand collab, Suicoke’s clever approach works by filtering each brand’s DNA into slipper hybrids that toe the line between the orthopaedic and the absolute height of fashion.
This is footwear that speaks to the moment. The currently sartorial mood in menswear is rightfully a bit “meh, do whatever you want”, and we’re perhaps all the better off for it. This isn’t to say dressing like a slob is in, but rather a moment to appreciate the comfort that menswear currently offers (also see the snoozecore trend, which we reported on earlier in the year). And hey, life is hard enough right now without uncomfortable, lace-up shoes to deal with.
So in 2022, may all your pain be champagne, and may all your shoes be slip-on.