Is the ‘Babouche’ Really 2016’s ‘It’ Shoe?
Fashion critics have decreed a pointy, Aladdin-style shoe to be the look for well-shod feet. Whether they are that pretty or practical is beside the point.
It is with not a little trepidation that I must report on the “It” shoe of 2016: the pointy-toed, flat-soled, slipper-like “babouche,” which you may recognize as Aladdin’s footwear of choice.
The traditional babouche hails from the Middle East, where bedouins, monarchs, and everyone in between have been shuffling around in them for centuries.
The babouches favored by Vogue editors don’t curl at the toe, like the Medieval style found in Marrakech souks alongside their less flashy counterparts.
Instead, 2016’s “It” shoe has a flat and elongated (read: witchy) toe and a buttery leather encasing—a streamlined, urban-chic take on the original.
To those whinging about cultural appropriation in high fashion: puh-lease. Everyone knows your politically correct babouche righteousness is a twisted manifestation of envy.
Céline has been credited for spearheading the babouche hype with its Resort 2016 collection, which features the slip-on style with a single, thick strap and oversized buckle that can be worn behind the Achilles’ heel or over the top of the foot.
For $790, a pair of Céline black or green “shiny lambskin” babouche slippers could be yours. (The woven leather version is a hair pricier at $1,350—shekels, really, considering this is the year of the babouche. You’d be foolish not to start 2016 off on a stylish, indebted foot.)
Other designers showcased babouche-inspired styles in their Spring 2016 collections, including Narciso Rodriguez, Victoria Beckham, and Opening Ceremony.
But in recent years, with creative director Phoebe Philo running the show, Céline has demonstrated a proclivity for making bizarro and offensively ugly shoes—and I mean ugly, like the high-fashion equivalent of Crocs.
For her Spring 2013 collection, Philo unveiled a pair of mink-lined Birkenstocks, quickly dubbed “Furkenstocks” in fashion magazines. (Naturally, Vogue staffers were early converts.) Then came quasi-orthopedic sandals and sneakers, the latter a classed-up version of that ’90s scourge: the velcro Adidas sandal. Both indicated some kind of bunion breakout.
Philo truly outdid herself with last year’s polarizing, elasticated glove shoes.
Still more designers are appealing to our ugly shoe fetish. For example, this fall’s “It” shoe was a heinous demi-loafer from Gucci, a ghastly cross-pollination of a loafer and a mule with a furry sole resembling a merkin. My editor shrieked in horror at the sight of it (“Disgusting! What died in that shoe?”)
He was particularly concerned about the odor-trapping fur heel, which he imagined becoming “matted like a comedian’s toupée from 1978” should it rain.
And have you seen Maison Margiela’s “furry mules,” which actually look like Chewbacca’s feet?
Again, pray it never rains if you wear them.
By comparison, the babouche is downright chic—the perfect shoe for bourgeois bohemian tourists to wear while traipsing around Marrakech, bartering with vendors for the real thing at a basement price.