Insomuch as such, the classic Albert slipper (or any fashionable derivation thereof) is quite simply a modern gentleman's sartorial prerogative — classically styled, characteristically lavish and tastefully refined.
Call them smoking, evening, house, or Venetian slippers if you prefer, anything save that of pretentious, impractical or irrelevant. My point being is that whatever fashionable nom de plume (or variable slipper style in itself) that you settle upon is of little consequence as most any slipper style in the genre will always be cast as a divine albeit quite controversial footwear diversion. To that effect, it seems that men either become completely smitten and sartorially beholden to them at first sight or instantly loathe and detest them without second thought.
Not to be confused with formal pumps, (backless) mules, (sportive) moccasins or (dress) loafers of any sort, these are rather slippers of an elevated sort that are fully deserving of all due wardrobing consideration in spite of being routinely disregarded, misjudged (smug and pompous?), mislabelled (it is indeed quite versatile), and misunderstood by the masses in what is an unwarranted manner that has continually proven to be detrimental to their character.
Richly fabricated, complex, fully customizable, and arriving with an enticing regal provenance in hand (for those who are swayed by such matters), I rather prefer to personally imagine proper slippers the likes of the Albert as spirited footwear for those who not only appreciate the finer things in life but are unafraid of (tastefully) stepping out of their comfort zone; for those who value highly stylized yet eminently practical and versatile alternative footwear options that can reflectively function as either an endearing or playful extension of ones true character and personality (if not purposefully styled crassly or worn simply to signify contempt upon others that is).
As such, and in aiming to sway minds and cast a more favourable light upon them, it must be said that they are at once both classically elegant and fashion forward, a rare distinctive breed of shoe that unabashedly champions the celebration of individual uniqueness and true signature style unlike that of no other.
Capable (in spite of their originally intended use as an exclusive “house or club slipper”) of being worn from sunrise through sunset whether the days or evenings affairs see you attending fine formal black-tie gala’s, simply retiring home for some much needed R&R, or going about town at your leisure and/or business, one could argue that they are but one of the few remaining respectable means of colourfully unadulterated self-expression that we have at our creative sartorial disposal — a truly unique and all-purpose alternative footwear option that is seething with opportunistic possibility and expressively refined character.
In other words, they make for a most satisfying and ripe fertile footwear genre for those (as superficial as it may seem) with an eye for design who care how things look and are enthralled by the deep, underlying sartorial messages and meanings therein.
Be that as it may, these often one-of-a-kind creations are most certainly not without charm nor merit and have long ago shed their aristocratic shells (and front stoop boundaries) in becoming a notable juxtaposition of styles that is effortlessly married together by that of the previously unheard of addition of structural rigidity (read: a leather sole/stacked heel) and characteristic elegance to the otherwise most laid-back of all footwear forms: the informal slipper.
A slip-on in every sense whose soft and exquisitely crafted lightweight structure allows for peerless utility, general ease of wear, and a full range of movement without ever sacrificing upon style or elegance, the Albert is an unconventional yet sartorially harmonious shoe that is comprised of four uniquely distinguishing (often hand-woven, typically bespoke) components:
Originally purposed and presupposed for proper gentlemen of the age who could not fathom being troubled by the notion (let alone reality) of ruining their vintage rugs, carpets and hardwood floors as a direct result of trudging into their stately homes and residences the damaging dirt and grim from the rudimentary (read: gravel/cobblestone) streets of the era, the Albert was (as such) strictly earmarked for wear whilst one was entertaining or retiring after-hours at their leisure.
Be that as it may, the classic gentleman’s slipper as we now know it today in its svelte (predominantly velvet with leather trimmings and satin lining) form — the (Prince) Albert as it were — owes everything to the man in which it derived its endearing moniker thereof: the pioneering and sartorially astute gentleman of style and substance who would come to be known as Prince Albert (who was arguably modern menswear’s first style icon and Prince consort to Queen Victoria I).
Thereafter buoyed by its regal provenance (read: an ever-important royal backing) and with a simple functional purpose squarely in hand, the dignified Albert — which was a newfangled slipper form unlike any before it — proved itself to be the most stylish, considerate, and able solution for those select few looking for a simple yet sophisticated shoe for leisure that not only had the backing of a prominent figure but in which instantly conferred wealth and sartorial opulence.
And the height of its opulence? I’d argue to that of its pinnacle era being during the glamorous Golden Age of cinema (read: the 40s’ & 50s’) wherein it became regarded as a quintessential Hollywood style staple that was seen on the likes of every sort of gentleman and movie star world round from Messrs Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks through politicians (such as Winston Churchill) and both the nouveau-riche and old-money Ivy-League WASP crowds alike.
In many ways still personifying that same bygone form of elevated sartorial civility it once did, the distinctive form in which extended from the office to the bedroom (with no compromise in between), the Albert slipper by no means has ever experienced a meteoric (or consistent) rise to fame but rather one that could be deemed as being rather drawn out and driven by what was always a niche group of arbiters whose styling habits and tastes took (or have taken) decades to truly materialize (read: become relatable) amongst the general masses.
Be that as it may, they remain to this day revered within certain circles (yet still not considered de rigueur per se) and have recently been given wide birth and currency by both modern dandies and enterprising sartorialist’s alike. Insofar as that, the Albert has earned its status as a self-assuring sartorial byword for refined opulence whose innate nonchalance, effortless grace, and artful blend of utility and aesthetics should not be understated and whose availability can now be had from both luxury specialists and fast-fashion wholesalers (see above for my picks) alike — at most every price vantage point and aberration in both colour and texture.
Upon wear (as a result of its pent up cultural cache) conveying a confident disposition while bespeaking unto a gent who is at a general sense of ease with his character, the quaint, luxurious, lively and (most often) natty Albert slipper is certainly not without its charms and merit in that it has continually managed to draw in generation after generation of dedicated arbiters of the style who become smitten by its sartorial aloofness, creative spirit and enduring legacy. Contemporarily speaking, the torch has been picked up by every sort from the likes of Messrs Tinie Tempah and Ryan Gosling through that of Lapo Elkman, Ralph Lauren and (on a biannual basis) a broad spectrum of the attendees at the Pitti Uomo fashion trade-shows (to name but an immediate few).
That being said, and in a proper reflection of the times, they can now be had in a vast (read: limited only by your imagination) range of styles — whether differing in colour, pattern, fabrication, provenance or uniqueness of design — for those who desire expressing their tastes, personality and rakish spirit in a bespoke manner that is otherwise unadulterated by the will or desires of others.
From natty (traditional) velvet and modern lightweight flax linens through rugged heritage tweeds, unique needlepoint and even Turkish kilim, it must be said that you are simply spoilt for choice in regards to choice fabrications whilst not being bereft of options neither when discussing the type of hand-woven medallion in which to outfit your slipper with so as to give it its underlying character — think crested (or clan) embroidery, regal brocades, personal motifs and classic “gold work” monogramming.
And the reasoning behind such a (loaded) statement?
They can be worn with anything and anywhere —whether sock-less or with proper hosiery — and fit the service bill just as well when worn traditionally astride one’s finest black-tie habiliments as they do with a favourite pair of denim (their ideal smart-casual partner) and a navy blazer (double-breasted for instance) — not to mention perhaps even shorts and a piped polo.
That said, do keep in mind that dressing in a manner that is tonally harmonious and in sync with you given slipper colour palette is your best bet to keeping its rakish spirit in check (i.e. avoid statement making colour contrasts or bright hues that further elevate the statement making nature of your slippers).
As such, how you set out to compliment something so beautiful and elegant is completely up to you as they (as noted above) can be worn with (sartorial) dignity and without social restraint from day to night with most anything that takes your fancy. Have a black-tie gala in the cards? Wear a pair of black velvet Alberts with your tuxedo (dinner suit). Heading for Sunday brunch with that special someone and want something that will add an immediate (yet subtle and comforting) level of panache to your attire
Free of social restraint and refreshingly versatile, you can acceptably wear (and adapt) them to most any occasion, mood or social eventuality save perhaps for only the most professional of business (i.e. Wall Street) environments.
Insomuch as such, it would not be a stretch to label the Albert as a footwear “tabula rasa” of sorts in that they have the ability to dress up casual wears or down formal attire with relative ease.
Considered a step above all other standard footwear fare, whether styled in a tongue-in-cheek design or classically subdued plain hue, this style of slipper is (as such) no mere gimmick nor irrelevant tool of the sartorial trade but rather a consciously styled, profoundly flattering accoutrement that can elevate any outfit to the next level whilst spiritually enlivening an otherwise predominantly drab wardrobe with panache and character.
That being said, no longer should it be viewed as posh and pompous nor should it be regarded as the elitist trapping it was in the days of yore. To that tune, I believe its best to dispel any lingering preconceptions or stereotypes that you may hold against the Albert (and its predecessors) for the simple fact that you would be missing out on a footwear alternative that fastidiously embodies the ideal compromise between formal opulence and casual comfort for no good reason — duplicitous sartorial nirvana as it were.
All that having been said, the Albert is undeniably a style wherein the old adage “the devil is in the details” rings true, a slipper second to none in occasional versatility (what other shoe can you wear to a black-tie gala as wells to the nearest coffee shop with ease and without contempt?) whose peculiar (and innate) joie de vivre is unavailable elsewhere.
Arguably capable of putting to rest any notion that one always needs to compromise between style and (specialized) substance when it comes to his footwear, I believe it can best serve as a means to either whetting one’s salaciously dandy appetite or rather (and better yet) as a fully able companion capable of satiating the discerning tastes of those who have a penchant for the finer things in life that harbour a desire to reintroduce this once quintessential "house slipper" back into the contemporary sartorial fold (albeit with a more enterprising and versatile presence and persona in mind)
Most certainly not.
But, does that definitively mean that they are destined to be at sartorial odds with you?
I believe thats best left to your (sartorial) discretion as well as your (real and not imagined) lifestyle, confidence level, and, last but certainly not least, the nature of your underlying rakish spirit and tastes.
And so it is with that in mind that I would just like to leave you to ponder — whilst you weigh up the endearing merits as well as the positives/negatives of the slipper itself — this (paraphrased) quote from ‘ol blue eyes himself who remarked that in style as in life itself “the big lesson (in life), baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.”
Preconceived notions and fears aside, herewith is a personally curated rolodex of the finest gentleman’s slipper specimens available on the market today (for the modern Prince and “commoner” alike) that are sure to please the discerning eye and pay dividends for years to come while serving as the ultimate form of stealth style statement.
All inspired by tradition but designed with modern life and living in mind, each one of these slippers is capable (in its own epic and unique manner) of functioning as an ineffably tasteful, profoundly versatile, multitasking alternative to the standard sneaker or lace-up in your daily (or casual) footwear rotation.
From the velvet clad rake and hopeless sartorial romantic through the quiet debonair assassin and the slipper-shod international man of mystery, here’s to finding your proper footing this season (and every one thereafter) in a manner most considerate and sartorial in character with your fine bespoke (Albert) slippers in tow (or would that be toe)…cigars, scotch, and country manors notwithstanding of course.
An intimate (and mature) fixture deserving of pride of place in any modern gent’s wardrobe, the playful yet refined sensibility that belies the gentleman’s (Albert) slipper is one that aligns perfectly with the prevailing modern standards of dressage in that it is both smart and casual whilst being nostalgically reminiscent of a bygone era of sophisticated (regal) elegance that is inspiring (to a certain set) and eminently covetable.
Having experienced a characteristic diversification in regards to both fabrication and embellishment during its near two century existence, the Albert slipper is no longer solely renowned for being a delicate shoe explicitly earmarked for informal or indoor wear but rather one that is now acceptably (and tastefully) sported with most any and everything in one’s wardrobe from naturally astride the finest black-tie attire through that of a simple t-shirt and jeans look.
: AN ALTERNATIVE TO CONSIDER :
(The Raffia Albert Slipper)
As such, you could say it is sartorially progressive yet impervious to the vagaries of seasonal fashion trends, a true-blue footwear “tabula rasa” of epic historical proportions in which we can each customize to our hearts content to best reflect and express — whether in a statement making or subtly refined manner — our sartorial tastes and desires as well as our very characteristic nature.
That being said, it is quite possibly “menswear’s best-kept secret” (in addition to “the most intimate item of male footwear history” according to style historian Fiona Dreesmann in her slipper tome, The Gentleman’s Slipper) and a breath of (re)fresh(ed) air that should be viewed as less a fashionable rebuke to societies current athlesuirewear fixation and more an enduring article of (sartorial) faith in a world where quality and taste should be valued above all else.
Ever as capable in a business or pleasure context, and as stylishly underrated (as well as revered by some) as the man whom they derived their moniker from, the humble Albert is as such a relaxed and (flatteringly) immersive slipper that will ensure you are always impeccably turned out no matter the dress code nor venue of the days events or nights affairs.
From the sartorial maverick and classic gentleman through the modern beau monde and reserved sartorialist alike, they will assuredly please any who is drawn to treasured articles of clothing that arrive with unique character, versatile merit, and a rich history.
So, whether you’re a gentleman of fine taste who enjoys less obvious footwear or are of the sort who is searching for an unexpected (yet sophisticated) way to tastefully jazz up your daily style rotation, I assure you that there is an Albert slipper awaiting with your name on it (and quite literally if you are of the monogramming ilk).
Wear often, without restrain, and as weather permits gentlemen!
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Alternative/graphic slipper shopping links: Foster & Sons (monogrammed velvet) | Brooks Brothers (wool tartan) | Del Toro (black velvet)