by Eric Twardzik
We’ve got a soft spot for impractically. And when it comes to footwear, nothing rivals the Prince Albert slipper for its outright rejection of utility in favor of decor. You certainly don’t need a velvet upper with a hand embroidered monogram to get yourself from here to there—but it makes getting there a lot more fun.
Stubbs & Wootton continues to uphold this old-world art from their home base of Palm Beach, Florida. The slipper-maker was founded in 1993, but feels as if it belongs to another time. Part of that trick is their reverence for traditional shoemaking methods. The other is their borrowing the surnames of two English artists from the 18th century, George Stubbs and John Wootton. The two were famous for their equestrian scenes, making them appropriate namesakes for a brand whose product is inexorably linked to aristocratic excess and flair.
Each pair is meticulously hand-crafted by artisans in Southern Spain and comes fully leather lined, complete with a leather outsole and a short stacked heel. They offer a variety of ready-to-wear styles, ranging from a discreet, solid black velvet to leopard print needlepoint to embroidered smoking joints. Fine choices, all; but their bespoke program is where the possibilities are, well…endless.
First you’ll choose your style of embroidery: monogram, motif, varsity-style sweater letters, or International maritime signal flags. Then you’ll pick from their signature classic evening slipper last or a square-toed UK last with a higher vamp. Once that’s put to bed, the real fun begins—starting with fabrics.
In designing this bespoke pair, Fred supplied Stubbs & Wootton with suiting fabric and tie silk for the commission. He began with a grey herringbone Harris Tweed cloth, set it on their UK last, and then trimmed it with an English repp stripe silk. Then, throwing all caution to the wind, Fred had his monogram hand stitched in 14K gold bullion, a type of metal thread.
Goldwork, the art of embroidery of metal threads, is particularly prized for the way light plays on it. Originally developed in Asia more than 2000 years ago, its use reached a remarkable level of skill in the Middle Ages when a style called Opus Anglicanum was developed in England and used extensively in church vestments and hangings. After this period, it was then routinely employed in the clothing and furnishings of the royalty and nobility throughout Europe.
Today, it’s increasingly difficult to find anyone adept in goldwork. It’s time consuming, expensive, and laborious. Did we mention expensive? Especially when working with 14K gold. It’s a modern day go-to-hell move for the genteel.
As anyone who’s had one too many martinis at a cocktail party can testify, it’s all too easy to place your foot in your mouth. One way to avoid this is to let your feet do all the talking from the get-go…especially if what you’re saying is, “Go to hell (if you don’t like ‘em).”