By Kuluba Mucolor
I always say: Don’t let PRIDE and PREJUDICE make you go broke. Explore NEW things and places, sometimes in your back…yard! Vacation in your town or city or give a small business the chance to show or test new ideas, products or merchandise. I took that chance in Monrovia one day. A street seller was passing by carrying a stack of slippers that looked colorful and attractive. I asked how much, he said $5.00USD and in my little heart-of-hearts, I was saying “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! I THEN asked where they were made and he said GHANA. He was quickly upbraided and I found out that they were actually MADE IN LIBERIA. He nervously tried to explain that if he had said it was “Made In Liberia,” no one would buy. Heartbreaking? No, but I believed him. We have more faith in all things imported or from abroad, EVEN before the influx of the much frowned upon “Made In China” goods that have flooded the market. I’ll renege on attempting to explain the “implications.” HOWEVER…it was a loaded statement. I had a machine gun of words to admonish him of ALL the reasons WHY he should be proud of the talents here, but when you’re trying to make a buck…you sell the kitchen sink along with the dream, sometimes.
He wasn’t convinced.
The slippers were VERY well made. Some of the best I’ve come across. He was actually a part of my inspiration for starting this blog. Liberia needs to be RE-Branded. Merchandise and products need to be FINISHED at home. The public perception can only change if we SUPPORT our own. To BELIVE in the QUALITY of goods and services AGAIN, we must invest in our professions and talents. A little effort here and there goes a long way. We must DEMAND excellence where need be and stop settling for mediocrity. I think people will rise up to the challenge IF they are CHALLENGED! So, after all that’s said, here’s the History of SLIPPERS as recorded: “SLIPPERS were originally from the East, but they have been worn by every culture. The earliest recorded reference to the slipper was is in the 12th Century by a Southern Song Dynasty Officer where he describes two types of slipper he saw in what is now Vietnam. These slippers had a thong to fit between the toes or a leather strap across the foot and the outsoles would have been made of leather. In the West, slippers were first recorded around 1478. In the East, the slipper was a symbol of CAPTIVITY. A Sultan’s harem would wear them for indoors making it easy to slip the shoes on and off before stepping on expensive Persian carpets. The slippers were very soft and comfortable and for indoors use, therefore, a concubine wouldn’t have been able to make a break for freedom in them as they were too thin and slippery for the hard rocky roads outside.
In certain cultures, such as Japan, it is a social obligation to remove shoes and wear slippers when entering a place of residence. This is due to tradition and respect for the house. The Meiji period (1868-1912) was one of unprecedented transformation that was to affect all areas of life, including clothing. During this time, special slippers were created for foreigners to pull over their shoes as the Japanese were accustomed to taking off their shoes and donning slippers indoors but their Western friends were not, hence the invention. The Japanese also have toilet slippers, which you put on before you enter the toilet and you slip off after you leave so you must leave the toilet as you entered as the slippers are meant to face the toilet! Although I’ve been told that this not a common practice. By the mid-16th Century, most wealthy men wore slippers made of soft Leather, Silk or Velvet, often in patterns that matched their outfit. Don’t forget, men in those days were more dandier than the women! Women also adopted an extremely impractical form of shoe called the “Chopine”. These slippers sat atop a platform that ran the length of the shoe and could be as high as twenty-four inches! As a consequence, chopines were very difficult to walk in. Both men and women used ribbons, bows, and jewels to decorate their shoes. Of course, such shoes were not intended for outdoor wear and both sexes wore overshoes called “Pattens” and “Pantofles” to protect their dainty shoes if they did go outside in them.
The Victorian era, saw the “Prince Albert Slipper,” so called after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. These shoes were a velvet slipper with a quilted silk lining and leather outsole. They were first worn by English aristocracy when Black tie dress for dinner was required by standards of etiquette and they would don velvet smoking jackets with a cravat and coordinating Prince Albert slippers. Eventually, this custom moved outside the home to clubs and smoking rooms. Nowadays, these slippers are known as “Smoking Slippers” and are worn by both men and women, sometimes worn informally outside.
Today, slippers come in many styles, Slip-On Slippers, Boot Slippers, Novelty Slippers and Moccasin Slippers. They can be made from different types of materials from leather, suede, wool to manmade materials with outsoles being made from again a variety of different materials like leather, rubber or EVA.
Apparently, Cinderella didn’t loose a Glass Slipper, there are over 500 versions of the tale in scores of languages, the earliest version dating back to 9th Century China. The slipper was never made of Glass but of Gold or Silver and sometimes embellished with gems. The story as we know it is a result of a translator error. Until the first half of the 20th Century, it was customary for pilgrims having an audience with the Pope to kneel and kiss one off his Red Papal slippers. On 30 June 2007, Derek “The Slipper Man” holds the Guinness World Record for wearing a pair of slippers for 23 straight years!
A pair of Red test slippers for “The Wizard of Oz” from the Hollywood collection of actress Debbie Reynolds sold for $612,000 in May 2011. (I think I need to get my hands on pair of these slippers so I can flog ‘em and live the life of Riley!)
“The Ruby Slippers” worn by Judy Garland in the “The Wizard of Oz” sold for a record $2 Million in May 2012.
In 2013, a Scottish university found a delicate pair of slippers that had been sitting unnoticed in its collection for more than a century may have actually belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Princess Pauline Borghese. The narrow silk and leather shoes, which measured just 1.5 inches across the toes and about 4 inches long (UK Childs Size 2), were marked on the outsole “Pauline Rome.”
$5.00 isn’t too shabby for this supposedly luxurious footwear that has me “captivated” by comfort.