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A very short history of slippers


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A brief history of one of the oldest and most comfortable style of shoes which are currently enjoying a renaissance.

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A very short history of slippers

  1. 1. A very short history of slippers Cameron Kippen
  2. 2. Slippers The term slippers derives from Middle English, ‘sliper’ or ‘slipor’ (Old English) meaning "slip-shoe" and generally describes any low-cut, lightweight shoe which the foot can be slipped into. Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) described them in his dictionary as; “A shoe without leather behind, into which the foot slips easily.”.
  3. 3. Pre-historic Slippers According to Rossi (2000), slippers are one of the oldest shoes which were most certainly worn in prehistoric times. The oldest known shoes are radio-carbon dated to at least, 10,000 years old and include simple platforms (made from woven fabric) with the front part folded in a pocket to protect the toes. The first slippers were strapped to the foot with a thong. The oldest known shoes were discovered in Fort Rock Cave, Oregon (1938). Made from woven sagebrush bark
  4. 4. Babouche Babouche from the Arabic 'babush' or Persian 'papush', describe a flat, slipper-like style with an exaggerated point at the toes. These slippers are thought to have originated during the Cradle of Civilization and worn by nomadic Arab desert dwellers from the earliest of times.
  5. 5. Spread of fashionable footwear Fashionable dyed footwear spread throughout the known world carried by the seafaring Phoenicians. From Ancient Egypt, India and China, sumptuous footwear became essential for the rich and powerful.
  6. 6. No shoes on Holy Ground Generaly it was considered inappropriate to wear shoes on holy (consecrated) ground. Today, only some religions continue to observe this custom. Removing shoes before entering a place of worship is thought to be a humbling mark of respect and conscious effort to leave the material world behind. The possible exception in some parts of India, are Khadau. These wooden slippers are worn by priests, and those who work inside the temple.
  7. 7. Removing shoes as a mark of respect A common practice throughout the Orient, is to remove shoes before crossing the threshold of a building, whether it be a place of worship or humble domicile. In agricultural societies outdoor shoes harboured dirt and filth and by necessity were made from animal materials which for many, were unholy.
  8. 8. Why remove shoes in domestic dwellings ? Much of domestic life involves contact with the floor including eating and sleeping on mats. In Asian homes, visitors remove their shoes in the genkan (Japan) , or hyeon gwan (South Korea). The genkan always sits lower than the house and slippers are provided by the host. Some buildings are built above ground to enable ventilation also a piping system below the home was used to push smoke to warm all the floors.
  9. 9. Cover up bare feet Culturally, the sight of bare feet could offend and were generally hidden from sight with socks or house slippers. In Korea these were called ‘sil nae hwa’, a literal translation meant ‘room indoor shoes’. In Japanese homes, a separate pair of bathroom slippers was kept specifically for the bathroom.
  10. 10. Slippers of the Orient  Slippers of the Orient were written about in the 12th century. Later advances in cartography and sailing meant Europeans charted new trading routes to the Far East. The spice trade was a major attraction and colonisation soon began.  Home based Europeans were fascinated with the exotic Orient and all the more so because of the quality of Chinese and Indian imports.
  11. 11. Pattens to Pantofles Pattens were clog like over shoes used to protect the expensive shoes of ladies in the late fifteenth century. Soon these were modified to accommodate the forefoot and became lightweight backless slip- ons with a fabric upper and cork soles. Dubbed by the French, pantofles (Middle French pantoufle or “slipper”). Later, the term became generic, and described any fashionable slip-on shoe e.g. chopines. A modified form of the slip-on, mule, had a small heel (approx. 1 -2 cm) and could be worn outside. The terms were often interchanged which subsequently led to much confusion among shoe historians.
  12. 12. Cinderella’s Glass Slipper The most famous pair of pantofles, were described by Charles Perrault (1628 - 1703) in the fairy tale Cinderella. According to the writer, she wore ‘la petite pantoufle de verre, " which was initially translated as a fur slipper (French: vair). Many believed this became a glass slipper only after the Walt Disney animated film (1950). However, this interpretation has since been discredited and the general opinion is the author meant glass mules.
  13. 13. The English Slipper : Symbol of the bourgeoisie. By the time Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) described slippers in his famous dictionary, bedroom slippers were in common use. “A shoe without leather behind, into which the foot slips easily.” Both ladies and gentlemen wore ornately designed bedroom mules.
  14. 14. Chinoiserie to Rococo style Rococo style was elegant and strongly influenced by Chinoiserie. Bed room slippers were characterized by exuberant decoration, asymmetry, made from sumptuous materials with tapestry uppers often outlined with golden threads. At a time when real men dressed like peacocks, bedroom slippers were the sexy shoes of the time and by the end of the 18th century, slippers (open and closed) were matched with the attire of the boudoir
  15. 15. The neoclassical style The rise of the neoclassical style during the reign of Emperor Napoleon (1804 – 1814/1815) led to a marked division in slippers. Popularity of Grand (Dress) Balls saw the introduction of dancing slippers worn for formal wear only; whilst house slippers (or carpet slippers) were for casual wear. Empire shoes or dancing pumps were heel less and did not extend beyond or above the vamp and quarter top lies. Pumps required no fastening (button, buckle, of bows) and followed the simple line of classic fashion made in silk and other fine materials. It was common etiquette for women to take a second pair to the ball.
  16. 16. Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, formalised slipper ware when he wore velvet slippers with quilted silk lining and leather outsole to black tie diner events. The Prince Albert slipper soon became associated with smoking jackets and were worn outside the home to clubs and smoking rooms. The Prince Albert Slipper
  17. 17. The Modern Slipper: Anything goes From hotel bathroom slippers, both reminiscent of Eastern culture to the distinctly Victorian ‘pipe and slippers,’ they are still very much part of domestic life. Slippers are now made from many different types of material both natural and synthetic. Emphasis on security, particularly at air and sea ports has had an unintentional consequence, with an exponential rise in the popularity of slip on shoes. Slipper boots like uggs are typically furry boots with a fleece or soft lining, and a soft rubber sole.
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