How hotel slippers evolved into the most important social accessory

Why, until you own a pair of opulent slippers from Passalacqua, Claridge’s, or The Dorchester, you’re nothing?

There were rumors of a conflict earlier in the fall about what would happen to the common hotel slipper. Given that most hotel slippers are single-use items, the argument centered on the environmental impact of the slippers. Aside from symbolism, not everyone feels at ease walking about in another person’s slippers.

 

And so, a slew of hotels ditched their disposable slippers. Rockliffe Hall in County Durham informed guests they were moving to a “barefoot” spa offering, and Thornton Hall in the Wirral put in place reminders for guests to bring their slippers or flip-flops to help the environment. It was starting to seem like the hotel slipper was on its way out.

 

 

Except, higher up the chain, a crop of luxury hotels set about a more creative route, turning this sustainability concern into a bonafide branding exercise. Because as it turns out, hotel guests don’t want their slippers to go gently into that good night.

“I think people are obsessed with them,” says Jules Perowne, the founder and CEO of luxury travel PR firm Perowne International. “I mean the good ones,” she clarifies, “what they don’t care about is some very average, non-logoed pair in a plastic bag.”

As the basic hotel slipper is dying out, the luxury slipper has arisen. These are no waffle knit sliders with a cardboard core, but proper, well-made, branded footwear. Perowne gives Passalacqua, in Lake Como, and Gleneagles, as examples. The former gifts its guests his and hers Venetian-style slippers, which Perowne says she and her husband still keep next to their bed every night. And the latter has honed in on Instagrammability, with one slipper reading “Toasty” and the other “Toes.” It’s an IYKYK piece of branding you’ll almost certainly see on your Stories at least once.

 

A similar method has been deployed by luxury beach resorts, which have introduced branded imprints to the bottom of their flip-flops. “So you might be at a hotel in the Maldives, but you’re walking along the beach and it’ll say ‘Hotel Cap Du Eden Roc’ [in the South of France] in the sand. It’s clever,” says Perowne.

This is because hotel footwear, when done right, is the ultimate quiet luxury item. Justin Bieber himself has been known to rock a hotel slipper while out and about, and while they aren’t always obviously branded, they still reinforce that he is a man who can afford to stay in five-star hotels near-constantly. Bieber will be thrilled to learn, then, that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have introduced them onto the catwalks of their high-fashion label, The Row. This might seem like a strange item to grace the runway, but it makes a lot of sense in the current fashion climate, where ballet slippers reign supreme and a flat shoe has become the new high heel. Not only that, but the seemingly clairvoyant Olsen also predicted flip flip-flop revival way back in 2018.

Hotel slippers and flip-flops are also one of the few items in the world that are designed to be stolen. Like how some plants are destined to explode to cast their seeds as wide as possible for pollination, guests are destined to pick up that piece of branding and walk away with it — away, and across the world.

For this reason, it’s especially effective with flip-flops, which tend to get more outside airtime than slippers. And luxury hotels have been at it for years — far before the furor over disposable slippers. Back in 2019, Hotel Il Pellicano, on the Argentario Coast of Tuscany, launched a collaboration with Birkenstock, which seemed like a strange marriage at first, given the footwear brand’s Germanic roots, but proved a storming success.

Similarly, The Dorchester recently released a line of silk and velvet slippers designed by Italian shoemaker Edhèn Milano, which you can slip into as soon as you enter your room at the hotel, or purchase online for £400. The Il Pellicano x Birkenstock collab and Dorchester slippers may be available to all (well, all who could afford their lofty price tags), but the appeal of most hotel footwear is that it can only be acquired if you’ve stayed at that location. It’s like an all-year-round sun tan, just pricier. And much like wearing a band t-shirt while knowing nothing about the band, wearing the slipper without having stayed at the hotel just isn’t that chic.

“In the summer, you see the chicest people around the pool showing off where they’ve been by wherever their flip flops are from, or wherever their beach bag is from,” Perowne says. As for the death of disposable slippers, she says good riddance. “It’s an absolute disgrace if anything comes wrapped in plastic at a hotel these days.” The future is in slippers the guest is destined to keep, which pays its dues as a long-term branding project for the hotel. “Hotels don’t like creating stuff for the sake of creating stuff,” Perowne adds, “so if they create stuff, it’s because they want people to use it, and to love it.”

 

 

 

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