The mule is one of my favorite shoes. The distinctive feature of a mule is that it’s backless. There’s not even a strap to hold it in place. Fashion historians know that the mule dates back to Rome, where a version was worn by senators. We know that in 16th Century Europe, these shoes were being worn as slippers in the home, but not in public.
They were heavily embellished by wealthy aristocrats but almost no one got to see them. The mule evaporated from the annals of fashion for centuries. But by the late 1990s, the mule had been rediscovered. Everyone from Prada to Ferragamo and Candies was making them, and they haven’t really gone away since.
Why do I love a mule? They’re elegant but minimalist. Mules just say luxury to me. They somehow always look classy and expensive. They’re available in sandal and pump versions. It’s easy to slip them on as you head out the door, and they’re comfortable, too. Mules are back in a big way for 2019 and beyond. Take a look at the shoes below!
This Barry mule by Christian Louboutin shoe sums up everything I love about a mule. See how elegant it looks? It has a medium sized, chunky heel. It features that braided detail and that tassel. It’s so elegant, simple, detailed and perfect. You know Alexis Carrington had a pair of these somewhere. This shoe was also produced in a dusty rose and a black patent leather, if you can find them. I like to imagine wearing that pink version with a wide legged lounge-wear trouser. You could swan around a mansion in those! This Velma slip-on from Target is a great substitute for those of us on a budget.
Many mules have a low profile and skew closer to a flat. Check out this Dashi flat by Jeffrey Campbell. I love that basket weave. It’s such an interesting texture. I love the way this mule hides the whole front of the foot, but leaves the whole back exposed. It’s so unusual compared to the way most women’s shoes are made.
These Mules with Bow by Marc Cain are another low mule, but with a great flourish in the form of that big, black bow. There’s also a blue-and-white striped version, which evokes a summery feel, but it’s hard to find. This mule reminds me of the versions you see in fashion history books. (Yes, they do exist!) Those old-time mules were embellished with things like feathers. Marc Cain has done a great job of updating that luxury for modern times. I feel like you could wear these with a black jumpsuit at some evening soiree.
There are, of course, mules for us working folks, too. I love this Heel Leather mule from Mango. That great cork heel contrasts with the black leather upper so nicely. That chunky heel reminds me of the Candies I had back in the ’90s. And you know how I feel about a peep toe; I love any excuse to show off my pedicure. This is a great shoe for the summer and early autumn. The neutral colors mean you can wear it with almost anything.
This Baoss Flat from Lucky Brand has an amazing woven, fringed texture. This is what I really love about a mule. It uses the foot almost like a canvas. You can pile on all kinds of decorative elements and it somehow never really overwhelms the shoe. This is a great young look. It’s perfect to wear to a summer music festival, or with a sundress for a walk by the beach. It looks like such a fun vacation shoe.
The Sophia mule from J. Crew looks so very vintage to me. It has that sweet kittenish heel, and that soft suede upper. The embellishment, with the stars and the bow, is lovely, too. This shoe straddles the line between sweet and sexy for me. I feel like it can be dressed up or down depending on what you want to do that day. You could wear it to a nighttime event like a theater premiere with a big full skirt. Or you could wear it during the day with a classic black capri pant.
This Gerda mule by Calvin Klein is so characteristic of that brand. It’s simple, yet you know just who made it. That criss-cross look shows just a hint of skin, and the pointy toe adds visual interest. This is something that could be worn to the office with a suit, or worn on the weekend with a linen trouser.
These Studded Mules from Zara are an interesting exception to the way most mules are made. They have a more square toe and show a lot of the top of the foot. They’re very rock-and-roll. These mules look great with any kind of jean. I love them with a skinny jean, especially one in black, and a leather jacket. I’m not much of a rocker, but these make me want to shake my booty in my favorite jeans, like a young George Michael.
What do you think of the mule? Do you wear them now, or did you leave them in the ’90s? Let me know what you think below!