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November 29, 2012

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Speaking as a person who indulged in the noxious brown weed for several years in my heedless youth, I have a strong suspicion about what the defining elements of the modern smoking slipper are - and why they're called that. It has to do with what's happened to smoking.

In our decades-long cultural battle against this expensive, addictive product (cigarettes, not shoes!), most of civilized society has reached a point of detente with the remaining 15-18% of Americans who indulge in nicotine. That great compromise boils down to this: You can still smoke, as long as you go outside.

And younger people, especially women, often go outside to smoke *even when they're home*, as that was how smoking was treated in the offices and homes they grew up in. Thus, there was a market for some inside shoes that could stand up to going outside for 5 to 8 minutes at a time, once or twice an hour. They didn't have to take you anywhere, you're just standing in one cold, windy spot. Maybe you don't even wear them inside, you just keep them by the door to slip into when you have to feed the monkey. "Smoking" is a useful shorthand for "mostly inside, but you can run out to the mailbox in them if you need to", and since they're usually pretty fancy for houseslippers, the "smoking" referenced is usually cigars, or 1940s' movie stars, to lend a little glamour.

But I think the defining feature is that the hard soles won't let a rainy porch get your socks wet when you're out sneaking a butt. And the reason they now sell them to women is that smoking cessation programs at all levels have been very successful, except with one specific demographic: young single women.

@Mark: Good points about glamour and forbidden pleasures!

The newfangled "smoking slippers" are definitely designed to be worn in public -- see that "power flats" article.

In Japan ,where most floors are now hardwood or linoleum , the stores recently started selling slippers with durable sponge soles . These are being marketed as , " room shoes".

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