The XX Factor

The Hot New Thing in Ladies’ Footwear Is Not Fully Putting Your Foot Into the Shoe

Step on shoes
Step right up.

Shoes via Everlane, Net-a-Porter, and Barneys. Photo illustration by Slate.

Mules, you learn in biology, do not technically count as a species because they, the product of male donkeys and female horses, cannot reproduce. If only the same could be said of mules the shoes, which retailers are producing and reproducing and, contrary to their name, frankly seem to breed like rabbits. Mules are everywhere lately. Elle says they’re the “it” shoe of summer. (Gesundheit.)

But that’s fashion, always changing, a new thing every season. It’s exhausting. So we’re doing mules now? Got it, mules. Here’s your primer: Mules are backless, so all clogs are technically mules, but not all mules are clogs. (For more on this distinction, visit the wide and fascinating world of mule vs. clog content available via your favorite search engine.) Mules are sometimes open-toe, sometimes not, sometimes heeled, sometimes not. They’re quite versatile; you may be wearing mules right now and not know it.

But I want to talk to you about a specific kind of mule, a virulent strain defined by its so-called convertibility. They don’t look like mules at all, because they have backs. And those backs are designed to be folded down and stepped on, like so:

The “Modern Babo.”


Everlane calls these shoes the “Modern Babo” and says the “unique, collapsible heel can be worn down like a slide or up like a loafer.” Gucci, Acne Studios, and others sell similar (and similarly expensive) designs.

There, now you know the horror that I’ve been living with for weeks. It’s not that I think they’re ugly; it’s more that the concept of stepping on your shoes on purpose has broken my brain. A lifetime of conditioning to put on my shoes rather than step on them so quickly turned on its head! I thought the world worked one way, but no, sorry, it works completely the other way, and now we can step on our shoes. These shoes are made to be stepped on, in fact!

Story time: When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have a friend who lived only a few houses away from me, and I went to her house all the time. Sometimes after a long day of playing outside or whatever primitive version of Catfish we were enacting on the computer, I would be too lazy to put on my sneakers to walk home, so I would just kind of stick my feet in them without tying them. More than once this resulted in me tripping on the way home; it’s really not a recommended way to wear your shoes. Little did I know I was such a fashion innovator, way ahead of my time on the stepping-on-the-backs-of-my-shoes front. Shoes: Who said they should encase your feet anyway?

Can you imagine having so much money to spend on shoes that you don’t worry about ruining the structure of your expensive leather loafers? Having such a busy social calendar that you don’t have time to fully insert your feet into your shoes? Traveling everywhere via UberBlack and therefore not having to take walking-more-than-10-feet-into-your-shoes considerations? Sounds like a nice life.

“For the record,” one of the most stylish women at Slate offered when these came up recently, “I like those shoes.” Well, there you have it: These shoes are the future. And in that future, a lot of us will be stumbling.