The slipper. That stalwart of presents for Christmas or birthdays. After all, everyone needs slippers, they’re such a practical and welcome gift. But do you know why they’re called slippers, who invented slippers, and where slippers came from? Here’s your chance to find out!
How Were Slippers Invented?
No-one knows for sure where or when slippers were invented, but the first references appeared in Vietnam in the 12th century. Soft, comfortable indoor footwear is, however, common to all cultures across the globe.
The origin of the name “slipper” is thought to come from the East where these shoes were made to be easy to slip on and off the foot before stepping on expensive Persian carpets, but again, no-one really knows where slippers get their name from.
The slipper’s history includes many famous figures: Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, popularised velvet slippers with quilted silk linings, while Winston Churchill favoured a similar style. In the 21st century, Taylor Swift has been seen in her embroidered and bejewelled slippers.
Slippers are an indoor shoe worn by both men and women, made from a variety of materials, but with the main aim of providing warmth and comfort inside the home. Velvet, suede, sheepskin, cotton, faux fur, wool, silk – all can be used to make slippers, and they are usually finished with a soft sole made of leather, rubber or synthetic materials.
Why Wear Slippers?
We spend so long on our feet that it’s easy to forget they need a well-deserved break. At the end of a long day, it’s important to treat your feet well and give them a rest from more formal shoes. Recognising why slippers are important to foot health is the first step towards knowing when to wear slippers to get the most out of them.
Just keeping your feet warm and free from pressure is a good start, and that’s one of the most obvious reasons to wear slippers at home. For many people, maintaining good blood flow to the feet is another good reason to wear slippers, especially if you’re older, and it’s even more important if you suffer from diabetes.
Here are a few other reasons why slippers are good for your feet:
- Cold feet can increase your risk of catching a cold. Studies at the Cardiff University Common Cold Centre confirm that chilly feet change the way your body reacts to attacks from diseases, reducing your ability to fight off the germs.
- Slippers keep your house clean. The soles of your outdoor shoes harbour grime and bacteria that you certainly don’t want to bring into your home. That’s an excellent reason to wear slippers indoors, including in the bathroom.
- Slippers act as protection against foot infections. Walking barefoot increases the risk of catching something unpleasant. Keep your feet clean and healthy in your slippers.
- If you’ve been given some fancy socks as a gift, you don’t want them to wear out too quickly, which is what will happen in you’re running around in stockinged feet in the house. Extend their life by slipping into your slippers when you get home.
- Wooden, laminate and tiled floors are the latest trend in home décor at the moment, but these floor surfaces are not only sometimes cold, they can be slippery too. Choose a pair of slippers with a bit of grip on the soles and you are less likely to slip and fall.
Are Slippers Good for Your Feet?
We’ve all heard those people who tell you slippers are bad for your feet, but it really depends on what kind of slippers you are talking about. Often, people think that ultra-soft footwear with no structure is bound to cause problems, but that’s making the mistake of thinking that all slippers are the same. There are plenty of more structured styles around with sturdier soles.
What’s more important is knowing how slippers should fit. Just because they’re soft and informal, it doesn’t mean they should be too big or too small – this is what makes some people wonder if slippers are safe, because they’ve heard too many horror stories of people falling over in loose fitting slippers on hardwood floors. Take as much care trying on slippers before you buy as you would with any other pair of shoes.
If you’re particularly concerned about which slippers are good for your feet, try looking for more structured and supportive styles with a closed in heel and rounded toes.
What Slippers Are the Best?
The answer to this all depends on what you’re expecting your slippers to do for your feet. If you’re looking for slippers to keep your feet warm, then sheepskin slippers are the warmest by far, but they are a luxury investment. Fleecy and faux fur lined slippers in a bootie style will also do an excellent job.
Slippers to keep your feet cool, on the other hand, should be made of a breathable fabric like cotton or towelling in a flip flop style to allow air to circulate more freely.
Some manufacturers specialise in slippers with good support for those of us with foot problems. Arch support helps reduce strain on the feet and legs and some slippers may have removable insoles for a more custom fit.
Slippers styled like flat shoes with closed in toes and heels will have the best support while also remaining comfortable. Look carefully to see where the seams are to avoid potential rubbing or irritations to sensitive feet.
When and Where to Wear Slippers
Slippers are fast becoming one of the most versatile and on trend forms of footwear. Slippers are moving from the indoors to the outdoors, as seen on many a celebrity. Of course, slippers to wear at home are still the perfect solution for a night in watching the TV, but people are increasingly wondering if their slippers can be worn outside.
You might find that some styles of more shoe-like slippers, such as moccasins, can be worn outside, but this fashion already seems to be over almost before it’s begun. While you might get away with taking the bins out on to the pavement, or chatting to your neighbour over the fence in your slippers, they really do remain an indoor shoe. There’s been a bit of a backlash against the slippers outdoors fad with supermarkets and schools banning them, so perhaps wearing slippers at home is really what it’s all about.
Slipper Care, Cleaning and Hygiene
You may have found your perfect pair of slippers and decided they’re the perfect match for you for life. But we rarely give the same thought to cleaning slippers as we do to our outdoor shoes. Can slippers be washed, and if so, how? Can slippers just go in the wash or do you need specialist cleaners?
Here are our top tips for keeping your slippers clean.
- Check the label to find out if your slippers are machine washable. If so, toss them in at the correct temperature and use a short, slow spin.
- Fabric slippers may be hand washable. Use warm, not hot water with a mild detergent, give them a good rub and a short soak. Rinse thoroughly before gently pushing the excess water out of the slippers. You can wash fabric slippers with rubber soles in this way too.
- Don’t wring slippers – they’ll lose their shape. Use a towel to soak up some of the water.
- Can suede slippers be washed? To be honest, prevention is better than cleaning in this case. Buy one of those protective sprays to give your suede slippers water and stain resistance, and top up the protection regularly. You can blot some stains with a dry towel, and use a suede brush to maintain the nap.
- How about sheepskin slippers? These are not best suited to washing either. You can treat the outside in a similar way to suede to keep them looking as luxurious as when you bought them.
- Want to stop slippers smelling? Baby wipes are your best friend. Use one or two to give the inside a thorough clean. This works for fabric, suede and fleecy lined slippers to keep your slippers hygienic. Sweaty feet are why slippers smell so get rid of that nasty slipper stink with this great remedy.
- Suede and sheepskin slippers really can’t go in the dryer, so stuff them with old newspapers to speed up the air drying process.
- Remove stains by covering in a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda, leave for a couple of hours, then gently brush away.
- Bicarbonate of soda can also act as a refresher for smelly slippers, like a dry shampoo. Sprinkle it in the slippers, leave for a few hours, and then vacuum out with your nozzle attachment.
It’s not usually worth resoling slippers, most people simply replace them. Don’t forget though that you can easily recycle slippers at your local recycling centre.
Slippers as Gifts
There’s no better time than winter to think about replacing your old slippers because they really do make a great gift idea. These days, they come in all colours, materials and styles so no matter who you’re buying for, you’re sure to find the perfect Christmas gift slippers to suit everyone.
And finally, what about those glass slippers that Cinderella so famously wore? It turns out they weren’t slippers at all. There are versions of this story in different cultures and languages across the world, and they are more likely to have been slip-on shoes, covered in so many sparkling gems that they looked like glass.