It Takes Two Slippers to Tango

The new-found adaptability of the slipper is attributed to a select division of tastemakers.

Freddie Anderson

First worn in Chinese courts as early as 4700 BC, opulent, svelte, and sophisticated slippers were adorned with symbols of power, such as dragons. In ancient North Africa and Middle Eastern cultures, the status quo on slipper affairs hardly shifted. Wives of Sultans were costumed in slippers with their husbands only prerogative to enhance their own prestige. A ravishingly tactile textile, velvet is the fulcrum of decorating the slipper with personal motifs. It would take until Victorian times for the discerning gentleman’s house shoe to gain wider prominence. Thought to have designed it himself, the Prince Albert slipper, as it’s otherwise known, became synonymous by being the preserve of courtly figures in velvet smoking jackets—prominently on British shores in propping up fireplaces in stately homes or reclining in armchairs in Pall Mall’s gentlemen’s clubs.

Nowadays, the velvet slipper is flourishing in environments that once would have been considered preposterous. Dressed in immaculate black-tie, but styled with sockless velvet slippers, the New York-born visionary of classic style, Angel Ramos, is seen emerging from Papaya Dog with a lemon-coloured drink and hot dog. It was a significant juncture for the humour and adaptability that surround the velvet slipper. Thanks in part to a small faction of adept designers who have blended velvet, artisanal stitched leather, and artistically embroidered convivial motifs, the slipper is now employed as an all-purpose shoe enriched with sartorial credentials.

On 25th September 1951, Sir Winston Churchill was pictured departing Buckingham Palace in his chauffeur-driven black Humber Pullman limousine. There was no glimpse of his bespoke and inseparable extra-large ashtray, but boosted on the seat to peer over the stateman’s shoulder and share the same view was Rufus II, his beloved miniature brown poodle. In 1947 the original Rufus was killed in a road accident, and so distraught was Churchill that he adopted a lookalike. When Churchill was introducing his new poodle, he would say, “His name is Rufus II, but the II is silent.” The kinship between Churchill and his poodles is irrefutable; they ate in the dining room with the rest of the Churchill family. They even had a cloth laid for them on the Persian rug beside the head of the household, and no one else ate until the butler had served Rufus’s meal.

Even for cynophiles, it is hard to demystify the distinctive make-up of the bond between dog and owner. What is often undeniable is the devotion between one and the other. If you are a friend, or simply a follower on Instagram, you will be well aware of the eternal companionship between Alexander Kraft and his beloved late Parson Jack Russell Terrier, Bertie. Whether it was at one of Kraft’s abodes in Provence, Monaco, Paris, Palm Beach, or at any of the global destinations he often found himself, Bertie would be by his side. When he was frail in his last weeks, Kraft tried to leave him at home, but Bertie insisted on joining him on short trips to Italy and the Cannes Film Festival.

David Niven wearing velvet slippers in The Pink Panther, 1963. (Collection Christophel © Mirisch G E Productions via Alamy)

Since the incredibly sad passing of Bertie, another Jack Russell named Gussie has become a precious addition to the Kraft pack. Adopted from Bark n’ Bitches dog rescue in Los Angeles, it is evident that Kraft shares his life alongside Gussie with the same love and attention as he did with Bertie. Although Bertie has departed for another happy place, his memory will certainly never fade. Tributes to Bertie appear from a variety of sources, not least through the Bertie-embroidered velvet slippers in the Alexander Kraft Monte Carlo collection. In sync with the ever-expanding AK MC assortment, Bertie now appears in a slightly more jovial guise. He hasn’t lost his throne on the slippers; he’s now nursing a glass of Kraftoni in one paw and in the other grasping the exclusive AK MC cigar.

Flexing the parameters of serendipity, the provenance of the AK MC Kraftoni velvet Albert slipper couldn’t be more entwined with the finished article. As mentioned, it is thought Prince Albert designed the deluxe slipper, which was and still is recognised as the venerable accoutrement that steers a polished performance of the Argentine tango. But in more modern times, the source of the architectural insurgency in the design orientations of the slippers is down to Percy Steinhart. Born in Palm Beach, Florida, and a former American investment banker, in 1993 Mr Steinhart founded Stubbs & Wootton, the purveyors of the aforementioned AK MC slippers. Thanks to the creative contributions of Steinhart, an appetite for a slipper of vaunted finery encompassing a casual aura has been induced. Expanding on the Stubbs & Wootton design vision, Mr Steinhart says, “Our slippers can be worn with jeans, tweeds, blazers, suits, and of course dinner clothes—from day to dawn.”

If there’s a tastemaker who demonstrates the authenticity of this proclamation, it is Kraft. Spending Christmas with his family in Provence, there’s a convivial picture of him and his father standing in front of the Christmas tree in evening wear. For Alexander, the attire not only features the AK MC black wool and silk signature jacket and matching trouser and waistcoat, but the highly personal outfit is defined by the Kraftoni black velvet Albert slipper. Also arriving in a navy hue, the slippers importantly benefit from a sturdier black-stitched leather sole. The significant advantage of this construction is that there are fewer layers of material, which enables greater flexibility and comfort.

Not restricted to the slipper, this sentiment towards clothing was arguably best embodied by the Duke of Winsor. In the late ‘40s he spent his winter at the newly opened Colony Club in Palm Beach and always opted for outfits that administer freedom of movement. Seventy-years or so on at the Colony Club – also a winter hideaway for Kraft – there’s a moment this year with Camilla Cordone at the private villa of The Colony Club where he perfectly encapsulates the concept of sartorial liberation. Sitting on a zebra-printed rug on the verge of the swimming pool, he has one hand on a dice from the backgammon board and the other is balancing a Negroni and cigar. Sophisticated yet supple, he lounges in the new soft cream cotton drill Riviera trouser, which combines beautifully with not only the navy Loro Piana wool and silk long-sleeved knitted polo shirt but also the Kraftoni velvet slippers.

Hand-constructed in Portugal at a small family-owned atelier, the Kraftoni velvet Albert slipper really is a homage to all that we are close to and cherish.

New client offer

15% on your first order

Please sign up for the AK MC newsletter to receive exclusive insights into the world of Alexander Kraft as well as previews, exclusives and seasonal offers