Mules span a wide range of styles between dressed up and casual. They can become a stylish, versatile and practical work horse of your shoe wardrobe.

  1. What Are Mules?
  2. Perceptions May Influence Your Fashion Choices
  3. In the 1990s,Mules Were Work Appropriate in Casual Work Environments
  4. Mules Are a Do Now

What Are Mules?

Mules are backless closed toe footwear. They can be flat or have all kind of heels. They type of heel differs among styles and changed over time. Today, the men versions are flat, while the women versions may have heels. Mules are casual, informal shoes.

Note that the open-toe version is called slides and is more formal than the mules.

In the early 17th century, they were in fashion as boudoir shoes in Europe. At that time, men also wore them at home. In the late 1880s, they became popular for English men as a standard shoes. The design called the Albert was the Must-have.

Today, it is acceptable tp don mules outside. They are a favorite for frequent flyers as mules can be slipped off and on fast when going thru security at the airport.

Perceptions May Influence Your Fashion

The first big mules trend I can remember was in the 1960s. But it was very private trend. They served as sexy, frilly, pretty shoes, women would wear in their bedroom in combination with intimates wear or a negligee. Thus, for the little Nicole, mules created the association of red light district work attire. Mules became a big trend the second time around in my lifetime in the 1990s. Mules are a big trend right now.

fashion blogger in classic American outfit wearing sling backs

fashion blogger in classic American Jackie Kennedy like summer outfit
American classic outfit with Anne Klein sling back pumps, INC capri pants, Moda International top, three strand pearl necklace, RAY Ban Jackie O. sunglasses, and Moda International cardigan (all own)


In the 1990s, Mules Were Work Appropriate in Casual Work Environments

When I see them they always make me smile. When I moved from West to East Germany in 1994, mules were hot too. Everyone in Leipzig, well actually not everyone, every fashionista except me was sporting them. One day my girlfriend  asked in her pure Saxionian dialect why I would not yet have a pair of mules. “Cultural reasons” I replied. She looked puzzled at me and said “What?”

I explained to her as politely as I could that in West Germany, it was considered unprofessional to wear mules to work. There mules were considered to be sexy house shoes not to be worn outside. She laughed out loudly and said that in East Germany, it was totally ok to wear them at work. We then discussed how being separated for 40 years caused such a different culture and/or opinion about a type of shoes – not to mention other clothing items, habits and preferences.

Nicole of High Latitude Style in vacation style
Chica floral print summer dress, Hermes collier de chien belt, statement necklace, metal bag, collier de chien bracelt, Ray Ban sunglasses, straw hat, and Juicy Couture patent leather mules (all own)


Mules Are a Do Now

Well after being exposed to lots of cultural diversity over the last 20 years, I have seen more and more examples of how fashion overcomes borders, and how culture has affected what kind of and how fashion is worn. But I still have to smile about my silly reason not to wear mules back then. I still wear my mules mostly inside the house except when I go for dance practice, dancing or eating out on a deck on the weekend (see outfit above). Then they are advantageous as I can slip faster in my dance shoes and get out on the dance floor. On the deck, they help to avoid that my legs swell while sitting for a long time. And a weekend is sort of private, isn’t it?

midlife woman in posh work outfit with dressy capris
Layered posh work outfit for AC offices with Moda International cardigan, Moda International knit sweater, I.N.C. cropped pants, Anne Klein sling back pumps, Longchamp pilage de cuire bag, pearl necklace, and Jackie O. Ray Ban sunglasses (all own)


What to Wear with Mules?

Mules are perfect to show off your (slim) ankles. Thus, they are a great alternative to pumps with cropped pants. Wide leg pants and Bermuda shorts also look great with this backless footgear. Try them with a midi skirt or midi dress for a relaxed summer look.

Non-embellished, solid neutral color mules work best with casual outfits, Bohemian style, all kinds of ethnic clothing, and even Romantic style. Black, tan, white and gray are the most versatile. Bold solid color or even bold multi-color styles go well with floral prints or as fashion statement with solid neutrals. An embroidered pair goes well with Romantic Style attire.

Do you have a trend and/or item you are reluctant to wear? What is it? Let me know by email.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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