I was mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed on a recent sleepless night, whirring past Emily Ratajkowski’s ample chest and Ivanka Trump’s “date night” with her son, when my finger landed on a frightful image: a pair of heeled, white leather mules with a curly white pelt secured under the buckle like Santa Claus’s beard.
Furry feet have been a sartorial and celebrity attraction all year, following Vogue’s decree that Gucci’s hairy loafer mule—its sole resembling an unkempt merkin—was the “It” shoe of fall 2015. Fashion’s fetish with this kangaroo-lined novelty slipper continued well into 2016, seen on Sienna Miller, Mary Kate Olsen, Alexa Chung, Kendall Jenner, and more of the industry’s celebrity crushes.
The mules were front row fixtures during September’s fashion weeks, seen on Alexa Chung at Gucci’s spring 2017 show in Milan and on the well-shod feet of fashion editors and influencers. In October, PETA, evidently late to the trend, criticized celebrity fans of Gucci’s furry mules (“kangaroos are social, intelligent animals who suffer in the production of fur products such as these”) and declared them “revolting.”
On this point I agree: Gucci’s merkin mule is somewhat ghastly-looking, particularly when matted after a few hours' wear. But fashion’s leading voices found them irresistible—a “brilliant bourgeois signature,” Vogue’s Sally Singer said, “both arch and fluffy.”
Gucci’s must-have mules are subtle and inoffensive compared to more standout fleecy footwear of 2016, from Maison Margiela’s furry mule to Kalda’s holiday tribute to St. Nicholas. (I stand by my assertion earlier this year that Maison Margiela’s shoes look like Chewbacca’s feet.)
For its fall 2016 show, Fendi sent out male models in fuzzy black slippers—“buggies,” as the Italian designer called them—that resembled fancy dog toys. Marni also served up shaggy footwear in its men’s collection: a pair of leather sandals with fur-lined soles, which defy seasons and other sartorial rules (models wore them with black socks).
However, it must be said that while impractical, these shoes are also dangerous. The wearer could trip on their own “hair,” or trip someone else walking alongside them. Who knew that hairy shoes could be such a safety hazard?
It’s unclear whether 2016’s pelted, hairy footwear fetish will carry over into the new year. Trends usually peak shortly after Vogue declares them a thing, but the furry shoe proved an exception—which means there’s likely more wild things for the fashion pack to snuggle into come 2017.