Slippers are stepping out.
Velvet evening slippers à la Hugh Hefner have caught on with some young celebrities, fashion editors, publicists and other early adopters of men's high fashion. But no one's saving them for intimate evenings at home by the fire. Instead, men are hitting the streets in hard-soled, heeled slippers, using them to add an insouciant flavor to shorts, cropped pants, jeans and full suits.
Evening slippers have been a dressy staple for years, sold by brands such as Stubbs & Wootton and Del Toro, as well as designer labels from Tom Ford to Ralph Lauren. Designer Christian Louboutin makes and wears studded velvet versions (yes, with red soles). But only in the past year have the companies seen a noticeable uptick in sales.
Stubbs & Wootton says sales of its velvet slippers have risen about 40% in the past year, in part due to demand from younger men. Del Toro says sales have doubled during that period. Glen Hoffs, director of men's fashion design at Brooks Brothers, says the retailer's velvet slippers, including a style with a "BB" monogram in gold bullion thread, have "been selling well" recently.
Kanye West has been spotted wearing slippers with jeans at occasions such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards ceremony in New York earlier this month. The entertainer first slipped into them after noticing a young man shopping at Barneys New York in a pair last year. That young man, Cassius Marcellus Cornelius Clay, recommended that Mr. West go to Stubbs & Wootton—and eventually ended up working with Mr. West on his overall wardrobe, according to Mr. Clay and Stubbs & Wootton. "By the time I started working with him in September, he had a closet full" of slippers, says the 20-year-old Mr. Clay, a student at Yale University.
Mr. West, who raps about wearing slippers in the hit hip-hop song, "Start It Up," didn't respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Clay, who says he has lost count of how many pairs he owns, is attracted to the slippers' comfort. Besides, "shoes for men are all pretty similar, so the velvet slipper is nice for variety."
Slippers aren't a big leap from laceless slip-on shoes like espadrilles, a current trend for summer. At the spring 2012 men's fashion shows in Europe this week, many of the models and attendees have been walking around sockless, with pants hemmed or rolled up to show their ankles. The look calls for a slip-on shoe.
Evening slippers have left footprints in fashion before. Even before the era of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, men wore evening slippers indoors when dressing for dinner or relaxing or wore the look outside with formal clothing. Some prosperous men in resort areas such as Palm Beach wore slippers during the summer with chinos or shorts. Recently, the idea of giving upper-crust preppy items, such as bow ties, a modern spin has been a motif in men's fashion.
Stubbs & Wootton tried to make slippers more youthful and subversive by adding design details like skull-and-sabers crests—its top seller, says founder Percy Steinhart. The brand encourages men to wear slippers with casual clothes as well as formalwear. "We're informalizing them," he says.
But to some men, going outside in slippers means stepping on a slippery slope toward disarray. "You can wear them outdoors under certain circumstances, like going to a garden party, but just walking around outside in velvet slippers in the day is strange. It's inappropriate," says custom designer Alan Flusser, author of "Dressing the Man."
Don't tell that to Brendan Ordonez, a 27-year-old fashion publicist in New York who often wears his during the day with cutoff shorts and ripped concert T-shirts. "They are all I wear save for Vans or snow boots," he says. Their one downside: In a recent rainstorm, he says, "my favorite pair got completely destroyed."
Andrew Saffir, the founder of Cinema Society, which holds celebrity-studded movie screenings, has long worn velvet slippers with suits, jeans or white trousers and a sport coat. The 44-year-old is pleased that younger men are embracing slippers. "I love that they're not considered old WASP-y and stodgy," he says. - WSJ
Written by: Ray A. Smith