Until lockdown arrived, the idea of versatile footwear seemed just a few slippery steps away from a trolley dash through Millets. Practical? Certainly. Efficient? Yes. Covetable? Highly unlikely. Versatility telegraphed compromise; a greige no man’s land for the inherently style-challenged. Now, of course, it’s a very different world. This flexibility speaks to a more modern sartorial etiquette and a much blurrier approach to both work and downtime. Casual still matters but so does the joy of dressing up. In fashion, as in life, the old rules no longer apply.
Way ahead of the curve regarding the virtues of not only versatile men’s footwear (of the superbly contemporary variety) but also the rise and rise of design capable of satisfying the newfound pleasures of working from home is British brand Mulo. A quietly emerging talent of the shoe scene since 2012, it was founded by Tobias Cox – a former management consultant with an obsession for the minutiae of iconic product design – and rooted in a singular mission: to elevate the humble jute and canvas espadrille into smart-casual footwear (the reimagined version resembles a grown-up skate shoe) that could outlast the summer and genuinely service almost any occasion. To nail that upgrade, the original styles are all based on a traditional Oxford shoe last – the mould upon which the archetypal formal shoe is constructed.
Ever since, it’s been respectfully reinventing classic styles and silhouettes – from loafers to the desert boot – for men who want to blend business with leisure and exchange the awkwardness of being slavishly on-trend for a stealthier sense of cool. During the pandemic, Mulo truly came of age – picking up a truckload of devotees addicted to the craftsmanship (everything is handmade in Portugal, with most styles crafted via a 100-step process) and a pleasingly minimalist luxe vibe that made them as viable for the daily Covidconstitutional – when life really became a catwalk – as a board meeting.
Its latest reboot focuses on making good on what’s arguably the ultimate object of domesticity-based derision: the slipper. How so? Partly via soles and footbeds sturdy enough to warrant the mantle of “house shoe”. Partly by wrapping those semi-formal silhouettes in suede, corduroy (big news this winter – as evidenced by Daniel Craig’s 007 No Time To Die swan song in Massimo Alba’s corduroy “Sloop” suit) and another beautiful heritage fabric, Donegal tweed. All – and this is where they really get down to business – are tricked out in natural shearling of such seductive sensory magnitude they’re basically footwear’s answer to YouTube’s biggest hit of the last decade: ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos – bizarre slices of media that include watching someone whispering into a camera or crinkling wrappers.
For those really wanting to show up, check out Mulo’s brand new all-singing, all-dancing, sheepskin slipper boots – a model lavished with the extra at-home extravagance of “ankle collars”, no less. Essentially dual-purpose cocoons for the feet, made for padding around at home or a quick dash to the shop for provisions, slippers really don’t get any bigger or better than this.