Slippers are great. At the end of a long hard day at school or work you can come home, kick off your shoes, slip into your nice comfy slippers and then prepare for a nice relaxing evening (at least, in theory you can, in practice things are often quite different.) In fact, your slippers are so comfortable – and comforting – it really might be nice if you could wear them all day long.
Can you wear slippers outside? You probably shouldn’t. Slippers are designed for indoor use, not for leaving on when you head out of the house. Slippers are for in the house, shoes are for outside.
At least, that’s usually the case. There are some exceptions, and we’ll get to those in a moment. But first of all, why is wearing slippers outside usually a big no-no? Is it a fashion thing? A safety thing? A tradition thing? Actually it’s all of those things and more, as you will discover if you read on.
Wearing Slippers Outside: Wear Issues
Slippers have traditionally been crafted to be as soft and comfortable as possible, right down to the soles. The standard design idea is that a slipper is a comfort shoe that should be lightweight, easy to wear, easy to get on and off and just comforting. The soles are also soft, not only for comfort but to protect the floors in the home (back to this issue soon), so soft in fact that if you wear to wear traditional slippers outside for any period of time it’s rather likely walking on hard sidewalks and the like would become rather painful rather quickly.
Another issue is wear. Traditional slippers are delicate things and if they are worn outside often they will wear out very quickly. There are of course, an increasing number of slippers that have harder more rigid soles, and are in fact more like a slide or a moccasin than a slipper – although that is often how they are billed – and those could probably be worn outside at least occasionally, should you so desire. But just because something is possible to do does not always mean it should be done. In this case it’s because if you wear the same slippers indoors as you do outdoors you are defeating one of their main purposes…
Does Wearing Slippers Outside Defeat Their Purpose?
Aside from comfort the other reason most people wear slippers at home is to help protect the flooring in their home. Outdoor shoes – of any kind – when worn indoors can wreak havoc on carpeting, hardwood flooring and even tile. Aside from dirt and dust their soles – which are designed for outdoor wear – can mark a floor permanently or make a carpet almost impossible to get fully clean.
But that’s not all. The bottom of your shoes is a lot grosser than you might think. Actually, we should probably warn you here, as things are about to get a little gross.
Researchers as The University of Houston decided to find out for sure just how dirty the bottom of the average outdoor shoe is. ANd what they discovered was nothing short of shocking. The most shocking thing? They discovered that the bottoms of 39% of shoes of the thousands of shoes studied contained bacteria C.diff, a form of bacteria that is resistant to a number of antibiotics that can cause all kinds of health issues, including diarrhea, and for those with a compromised immune system (babies, older people etc,)it can cause serious bowel problems if left untreated.
Getting even grosser, coliforms, which are universally present in both human and animal faeces, were detected on the bottoms of 96% of shoes, E. coli on 27% of the shoes, along with seven other kinds of bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause UTIs and Serratia ficaria, which can lead to respiratory infections. In total they actually found nine types of rather disturbing bacteria across their shoe samples.
The researchers also then tested to see if bacteria on the shoes would transfer to the tile floors in a house. More than 90 percent of the time it did, and carpets fared even worse. Almost 99% of the time the carpet ‘absorbed’ the bacteria even when the shoes themselves seemed to leave no visible stain behind. All of this is, of course, a very good argument for the no shoes in house rule that some people (quite sensibly) implement.
Going back to slippers, if they are worn both indoors and out – if only for a minute to run and get the mail – they will then be exposed to all that bacteria and their ability to protect your floors – or your home from nasty germs – will be gone. So, from a health and safety point of view it’s fair to say that wearing slippers outside (and then indoors again) is a very bad idea.
Wearing Slippers Outside: Fashion Issues
Those furry house slippers are comfortable, and they are certainly very cute, but you really would never think of wearing them outside because it’s just not a good look. Or is it? It appears that the fashion world is beginning to change its mind about wearing slippers of all kinds outside.
Take the new Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle. As is the case for all royals and celebrities the media take a lot of notice of what she wears. And on her recent trip with husband Prince Harry to Australia, it appeared that the recently pregnant Duchess was actually wearing slippers outside! During a royal engagement.
As it turned out, she almost was, The shoes in question – as the media quickly found out – were indeed indoor slippers by the brand Birdies. But they do have hardy soles that make them suited to walking outside as well. In the Australian sun rain wasn’t a problem and so the choice of shoe actually made a lot of sense for a newly expectant mother.
It was a shock to royal watchers though. Slippers, on a formal public outing? No modern Royal had ever done that before. Needless to say though the $140 slippers have been selling out ever since.
The Chinese fashionistas are taking the slippers outside trends even further. Fashionable Chinese women – especially those in their twenties and thirties – are wearing fluffy bedroom slippers everywhere. On China’s answer to Facebook and Instagram – Weibo – you can find post after post encouraging women to wear their fluffy slippers everywhere, including the office.
So why are slippers worn outdoors apparently becoming acceptable in fashion circles? Some fashion experts say it is a rebellion against the foot crippling Jimmy Choo style shoes that many women squeeze their feet into everyday that has been too long in coming. In the era of #MeToo if men can get away with wearing flat shoes everywhere, why shouldn’t women too?
Can You Wear Moccasins Outside?
This question often goes hand in hand with the first query we discussed, can you wear slippers outside? The fact is that moccasins were always meant to be worn outside, it is only in the later part of the twentieth century that moccasin slippers began to appear at all.
Moccasins are, as many people are vaguely aware, footwear that the European settlers in North America saw for the first time on the feet of the Native Americans they encountered. And they were often worn everywhere; at home, out walking, when tending crops in the field and even into battle. They were the all purpose foot cover that could do it all, including identify which tribe the wearer belonged to as every tribe had their own unique moccasin styles.
The idea of wearing moccasins everywhere has continued, even if today’;s fashion versions are a very watered down look in style terms when compared to traditional Native American moccasins. There are moccasin style dress shoes that are specifically designed for wear at the office. There are driving moccasins – special light leather shoes with nubbed soles that are designed to enhance the driving experience by letting the wearer really ‘feel’ the pedals as they drive. And then there are moccasin slippers, very soft soled options that are designed for indoor wear and for pure cozy comfort.
A Final Word About Slippers Outdoors
In the end, the real answer to the original question is that yes, you can wear slippers outside and can even be considered very fashionable while doing so. What you should not do however is wear the same pair of slippers both indoors and out. If you love the idea of taking the comfort of slippers outdoors make sure that they are reserved for that purpose only and that you have another pair for indoor wear exclusively waiting in the house when you get home. Otherwise, as those University of Houston researchers were able to rather graphically demonstrate – things can get pretty nasty and icky very fast!