This story is part of Image issue 17, “Offering,” a special gift from L.A.’s creative community to a city that seemingly has it all. Read the whole issue here.
The house shoe is a most wonderful invention, designed for one particular purpose and that purpose is helpfully reflected in the object’s name. A shoe for the house! These shoes are often dainty, delicate and decidedly inappropriate for a rugged day in the urban wilderness. They are meant to denote the physical and psychic differences between going out and staying in. The house shoe is a leftover from a time when human lives could be separated into discrete segments — work, leisure, domestic chores and entertainment. Technology has taken a sledgehammer to those divisions and now we’re sending emails at movies or entertaining ourselves with podcasts on our commute. That is, if we even have a commute anymore. I can wear a suit around the house if I really want to. House shoes don’t have to be worn at home. In fact, house shoes might be the ideal footwear accessory for our burgeoning moment of conspicuous opulence.
Wearing indoor shoes outdoors has been a thing for some time now. Just look at Adam Sandler or Justin Bieber. Tyrese in John Singleton‘s hood classic “Baby Boy” made house shoes a statement piece for Los Angeles. Tyrese as Jody in his house shoes made the immaturity of the character concrete. If you can’t even be bothered to wear real shoes out of the house, why would anyone expect you to ever get your life together? For years, a life of leisure felt like a shirking of responsibility. How could you be so cavalier to not put on a pair of shoes with laces? That all changed three years ago.
Like a lot of Angelenos, I spend a significant portion of my day at home. Interminable hours spent making a trip from my desk to my dining room seem like Frodo Baggins taking the One Ring to Mount Doom. Sadly, I don’t have a Sam Gamgee to share the load of carrying my cereal bowl and Nalgene from place to place. The days of mandatory office attendance are gone, seemingly (hopefully?) forever. And spread out, suburban L.A. is better suited to countless days in one’s pajamas than more cramped metropolitan areas. If you’re going to spend most of your day stuck in traffic, who cares if you’re wearing pajamas?
The Ugg as jewelry object
I bought my first pair of proper pajamas during the quarantine — a navy blue set with white piping and a pink monogrammed breast pocket from the English company Derek Rose. If you are going to drop coin to outfit yourself in a pajama set, you might as well get house shoes at the same time. Mine are black leather, soft bottoms with absolutely zero arch support. I find myself cramping up if I wear my house shoes too long. They are not made for jaunts, excursions or strenuous activities like taking out the trash or picking up an Amazon delivery. This is a true-blue house shoe: deeply uncomfortable and designed for short-distance travel.
Los Angeles is a place designed for brief bursts of walking followed by tedious hours spent in the car or on the bus. Here, a house shoe out of its element almost makes sense, in the way that the plot for the movie “Tenet” almost makes sense when you paradoxically accept that it doesn’t make sense at all.
Just resting my eyes in my Bodes
Like its Australian cousin, the Ugg boot, the house shoe expresses casual indifference to social expectation and formality. The difference is, Uggs are kind of rugged. They’re hardy hearty and have a sturdy rubber sole. They collect a kind of blue-collar patina the dirtier they get. After all, the Ugg was made for surfers first. They have to interact with the elements. The house shoe, on the other hand, scoffs at the weather. The wearer says, “I know the simple act of wearing these outside will ruin my shoes. And yet I couldn’t care less. I look fabulous.”
Take, for example, America’s unc himself, the comedian Steve Harvey. Last spring, Harvey was photographed in Dubai wearing Balenciaga pajamas and gaudy slippers while conducting whatever expensive business Steve Harvey engages in when he’s not giggling at double entendres on “Family Feud.” I am not typically a fan of Balenciaga’s whimsical, post-apocalyptic take on luxury, but this look is easily one of the most standout fits from 2022 just for the sheer audacity of it all.
It’s up, up, up! Like Celine
Luxe is obviously a pair of Louis Vuitton monogrammed out pool slides and mules (a massive undertaking for the brand’s incoming men’s creative director Pharrell Williams to improve upon). But the Bode house shoe, in both understated black and brain-melting blood red, is the uniform for the very successful layabout (if Grandpa Joe from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” were a creative director for a crypto startup). The Bode shoe has all the delicate qualities of a traditional leather house shoe, with the added detail of brass animal charms made in Switzerland and a sturdy hard bottom.
Something about taking a business call in your pajamas feels simultaneously decadent and completely in line with the moment. Because we carry our phones everywhere we go — blinking and vibrating at random intervals — we carry stress too. Taking your pajamas and house shoes into the world is a way to chip away at the anxiety that comes with never-ending interconnectivity. Calm, peace and nonchalance are perhaps the greatest luxury of the modern era of income inequality and the perpetual grind to maintain a semblance of a middle class existence. If you can take your job home, why can’t you take your home to your job? To make the mythical work-life balance a tangible reality; that’s the ideal. And there are few designers more focused on bringing that to fruition than Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo.
1x for Liquor Bank. 2x for Dries X Stüssy
Lorenzo’s collaboration with Birkenstock, the cheekily named Los Feliz sandal (are you really an Angeleno if you don’t have an opinion on how to pronounce “Los Feliz”?) is another salvo in Fear of God’s all-beige-everything war on fussiness. The campaign for the Los Feliz is just as chic and understated as any other Fear of God campaign. In many ways, Lorenzo’s brand is a decidedly West Coast mirror image of the Olsen Twins’ ultra-luxe the Row. Understated color palettes, generous cuts that hark back to the late ’80s and early ’90s, nary a logo in sight but eye popping price tags.
What sets Fear of God apart is Lorenzo’s commitment to innovation in the footwear space. The foam California slipper — a blessed and holy house-shoe-orthopedic-clog, which you might see on an ER nurse — completely obliterated my boundaries between indoor and outdoor shoes. They can be worn down with sweatpants or up with a finely tailored suit, which Fear of God often does in its lush lookbooks. Whatever stereotypes you clung to around house shoes don’t make much sense the moment you put on a pair of Californias.
Bottega Mornings. Veneta night moves
The Los Feliz is the natural extension of what Lorenzo was able to pull off with the Californias. By pairing with Birkenstock, a brand that did its own meddling with the house shoe through the hypey Boston clogs, Fear of God was able to improve upon its already lofty standards with creamy suede upper straps and the iconic (and insanely comfortable) latex footbed that’s a staple of Birks. These are house shoes that can take you from the desk to the dining room, and more.
If Fear of God’s mission is to bring the relaxed fit of streetwear to tailoring, to sprinkle a bit of “Baby Boy” immaturity onto the drudgery of the workweek, it will find few detractors in Los Angeles. We don’t judge and we don’t label. Still, as clean as those Los Feliz sandals might be, you‘d better take them off in my house. These hardwood floors won’t mop themselves.