Style / November 2015

THE VELVET OVERGROUND

Liberated from their stuffy roots which date back to the Victorian era, slippers are now a bold style statement that border on the subversive.

When it comes to style, there's little more gratifying than witnessing the vaunted finery and preserves of privilege being appropriated by the wider style-possessed community - especially when it facilitates upping the fancy-shoe quotient. The recent appetite for velvet slippers exhibited by strains of modern style merchants is an excellent example. The nouveau slipper set is diverse. Ryan Gosling is often in black velvet Alberto Morettis on the red carpet; Kanye West can't stop 'flossing' in velvet slips, in his videos and at fashion shows; even Elton John and Morgan Freeman have been spotted in them. But it's far from being merely a celeb thing - global hipsters and dandies have really driven up their popularity. Velvet slippers are the new exuberant style statement. If you think you're not a VS guy, the host of slipper creativity and stylistic daring that this trend has solicited might tempt you to dip your toes in.

Velvet dress slippers were gentlemanly attire during Victorian times, when the Prince Albert slipper was named after the royal enthusiast. Eveningwear evolved, but slippers stayed the distance, being the preserve of chaps in velvet smoking jackets, propping up fireplaces in drafty piles or languishing in super-preppy East Coast men's clubs - they were effectively smoking shoes. Matching them to velvet smoking jackets is one modus operandi, but with a dinner suit, darker hues function in the least jarring way. On a nimble stylist, they work as the only vibrant splash in a black-tie look. Monograms or insignias can be a fetching touch. The real story, however, is sporting them in non-formal scenarios.

Tuscan shoe designer Alberto Moretti could scarcely be more of a Rake man. Keen on wearing a bow-tie from the age of three, he's also an avid and accomplished polo player. He took the historical Italian brand Arfango, which dates from 1902, and reworked its ethos, relaunching it in 2008; Moretti has also collaborated with Lapo Elkann under the Italia Independent brand. The silk-velvet handstitched slipper loafer has become Moretti's signature piece in a spectrum of sophisticated hues, such as dusty amethyst and bronzes. 'Once upon a time, the velvet slipper was an accessory to wear at home,' he says. 'Nowadays, the velvet slipper loafer is iconic. Velvet is a passe-partout [all-purpose] in fashion, with jeans or tuxedo, in the morning or evening.' Penny and tassel loafers in midnight blue and black velvet are gorgeous. Alongside classically beautiful work, seasonal collections push the slipper envelope, with fun, irreverent adornments and finishes. Quirky trompe-l'oeil brogue patterns, cheeky lipstick kisses or dainty bows play with masculinity. 'I've transformed the classic slipper into a real moccasin to be worn all the time, with precious brooches, bow-ties, crystal embroideries and bows evoking glamorous evenings,' says Moretti.

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Tom Stubbs

Fashion Editor-At-Large