When you think of venetian-style shoes, you might not know exactly what they are. But you’re undoubtedly familiar with smoking slippers and slip-ons. You may even have a pair in your closet. Those are venetian-style shoes. They’re mid-heel slippers which have an upper that’s open. The cut of the shoe reveals not only the ankle but also the kick of the foot. Some styles feature details like tassels or straps. But regardless of how they’ve been altered, they always evoke sophistication.
Sources vary on the history of venetian-style shoes but their American lineage dates back to the 1800s. Back then, they served as actual house slippers for men of the pampered class. They’d never wear them to dinner or a night out on the town. But they felt right at home wearing them in the bedroom.
Fast forward to the 1920s when they adopted the name “smoking slipper”. Some referred to them as cigarette shoes or dinner slippers. The name was quite literal. When men wanted to excuse themselves to another room or even outdoors for a cigarette, these were the shoes they wore. The footwear style became synonymous with Hugh Hefner, who seemed to be in a perpetual state of lounging.
While Italian men were more forward-thinking and started incorporating them into their day wear, Venetian-style shoes stayed under the radar in the states until 2011. It was then that major publications like WWD started touting them as the next big thing in footwear. From Gap to Tom Ford, every brand started to jump on the craze.
The style was updated for modern day with skull embroidery, brightly colored suede in yellow or blue and even stud applique. These Venetian-style shoes were no longer relegated to the living room. They quickly became the defining feature of many men’s looks. In a way, they’ve become the men’s alternative to the ballet flat for women. They’re a shoe that’s easy to wear and comfortable yet undeniably stylish.
For those looking for an explicit connection to Venice, that remains a bit of a mystery. It’s rumored that Venetian-style shoes got their name because the notched vamp resembled Venetian baroque art. However, there’s no way to know for sure.
Despite their sudden popularity, Venetian-style shoes’ origin remains unverified.
It’s important to note that not all Venetian-style shoes are smoking slippers but all smoking slippers are Venetian-style shoes. Their defining characteristic is the notched or raised vamp; not necessarily the suede fabrication. However, the shoe’s popularity in America can be traced through the smoking slipper. It’s this trendy shoe that pushed the style back to the forefront of menswear.
Whether you’re looking to add a bit of relaxed style to your look (a la The Rat Pack) or simply switch up your shoe selection, Venetian-style shoes can offer style and traditionalism that’s unrivaled by any other men’s shoe.