My Betterfelt slippers could literally not have come at a better time.
For more than a month now I’ve been spending my time between writing assignments (and cleaning up after my children) washing, sanding, priming and painting walls. I did not have proper footwear for this task.
Foolishly, I found myself doing it wearing the same Moccasins I’ve been using for the past three years. It didn’t take long before they got covered in white dust from drywall plaster on top and bits of paint on the bottom.
They were already getting pretty shabby — as is probably the case with most guys who get their slippers as a birthday or Christmas gift rather than buying their own — but now they were definitely ruined.
I will not be making the same mistake with the two pairs of Betterfelt slippers I was gifted shortly after having a chance to chat by phone with the owners. They came in simple but elegant boxes, and inside they had a texture and (in one case) a colour I would never have imagined would work for male slippers.
Jakob Lykke and Liz Wirth might not have imagined it either, until they happened to walk into a Betterfelt store in Denmark. A former lawyer and economist, respectively, they took on the company about a year and a half ago, and now run it out of Toronto.
Betterfelt’s selection ranges from traditional greys and browns to steel blue, a cheerful bright red and even lime green. They also transcend the usual construction with boot-style pull-ons and a choice of rubber or leather soles depending on where you’ll be wearing them.
For a lot of men right now, of course, slippers are likely to get worn a lot more often than ever before. The movement towards increased work from home policies mean that habits that began during pandemic lockdowns may be here to stay. Even if more of us are pulling on a decent-looking shirt or even a sports jacket for Zoom calls, there’s no reason you couldn’t stick with your Betterfelt slippers all day long.
“We’re very excited that people are wearing their slippers more and have more appreciation for comfort,” Wirth said. “They’re also dressing for themselves versus having to get dressed and go out to work all the time.”
Slippers have traditionally been perceived like a basic fashion item, Lykke said, especially for men. Betterfelt’s products are designed to appeal to those who will care about the details, such as the fact the rubber sole gives greater slip resistance and can handle water better than a suede one.
“When you look at our styles, the first question is how are you going to use them?” Lykke said. “Are you the kind of person that kicks your shoes off when you’re sitting at the desk? Then you probably want to have the convenience of the classic slipper. If you’re going to be walking around a lot, it might be a good choice to look at one of the models that fit more on your feet, like the high boot.”
I find myself alternating between the two, often based on what I think will match the rest of my outfit. It’s fair to say I never gave this a thought with my Moccasins, which didn’t really go with anything. It doesn’t matter if no one else sees them. For the first time, I want slippers that colour-coordinate.
Lykke recommends wearing Betterfelt slippers without socks, because the wool contains natural lanolin, which repels dirt and odor while regulating the temperature and wicking away moisture.
Beyond the aesthetics and feel of the product, Betterfelt is focused on another area that men might have considered when they’ve worn slippers before: where they come from and how they’re made.
The company was originally founded by Thomas Glerup, who worked with wool felt for nearly two decades. Lykke and Wirth want to maintain the firm’s tradition of quality, but they are also committed to ethical sourcing, fair trade practices and sustainability. They work with a partner, Sabina Matangi in Nepal, who manages artisans in a workshop in Kathmandu.
Lykke and Wirth are not only on a first-name basis with those artisans — customers can be as well.
“We have a little embroidered stitch on our slippers so you can see who made them, just behind the ankle,” Wirth said. “We’ll have customers send us a message saying, ‘Can you please thank them?’ We’re in contact with our partner Sabina regularly, so I can absolutely pass that along.”
Betterfelt will likely concentrate on selling its slippers online in the near-term, though the owners will also explore partnerships with smaller retailers where people can see and touch them in person. It’s well worth it, given the casual and comfortable ethos of the Danish design.
“I think that approach in terms of design goes back to the 50s and 60s with the first Danish furniture designers. Those products are as popular now as they were fifty or sixty years ago,” Lykke said. “We’re excited about having the ability to take that style and design things that don’t just look pretty on a shelf but that can be part of something you wear every day.”