by David Isle

Life in the time of coronavirus has raised at-home footwear to a place of paramount importance in my life. I’ve always been an outdoor-shoes-are-for-outdoors kind of person, but haven’t thought much about what was on my feet while indoors. When I was living in New York, I only barely had enough room in my apartment for my bed plus my removed shoes on the floor. But since leaving New York, I’ve enjoyed such amenities as porches and couches, and have found slippers greatly add to the pleasures of both. One slipper style I have come to particularly enjoy is the Venetian furlane slipper. 

I was first introduced to the furlane by No Man correspondent Réginald-Jérôme de Mans. I was passing through Venice, and received a missive from Monsieur de Mans, asking if I could visit a small shop in one of Venice’s crannies, and get him a pair of purple slippers, for delivery to him at a yert in Mongolia, where he was then exiled as punishment for an appallingly vulgar #menswear review. So of course I wound my way through Venice’s canals and side streets (one does not disappoint Monsieur de Mans, if one can help it), found the right door to push, and entered what seemed a forest of banana trees, except the fruits were velvet slippers in jewel tones, each with stitched rubber soles.

The origin story of these slippers is supposedly that they were made from scraps during World War II: Venetians gathered together small bits of velvet (apparently Venice is never without at least some small bits of velvet) and rubber from bicycle tires and pieced them together to have footwear when their rationed allotment gave out or didn’t appear.

According to a recent Elle article, after the war, gondoliers realized that the slippers worked well as boat shoes, since they had good traction and didn’t damage the wood on the boat. And Venetian nobles wore them to be able to sneak silently to their secret lovers. I’m not sure I believe either of these (if the wood is so easily damaged, what about all the other non-furlane-wearing passengers? And aren’t the gondolieri and the nobles basically one and the same since the war?).   

Anyway these days you can wear furlanes for whatever purpose you want, including on your porch. You don’t even need to go to Venice to get them – this pair is a click away. Monsieur de Mans informs me that his pair from several years ago is still going strong, having survived this pandemic just as its forbears survived World War II.