What are Moccasin Slippers?

Brendan McGuigan

Moccasin slippers are simply slippers made in a style inspired by traditional Native American moccasin footwear. They have become very popular in the past few years, because they are more durable than many other forms of slippers, are stylish, and are quite soft. Although different in some crucial ways from actual moccasins, moccasin slippers are actually quite similar to the original item. The word moccasin comes from a Powhatan word, makasin, derived from an earlier Proto-Algonquiaan word, maxkenseni, which means simply "shoe."

Some moccasin slippers are made of moose hyde.
Some moccasin slippers are made of moose hyde.

The original moccasin was an item of footwear worn by a number of Native American tribes, and eventually worn by European settlers as well. They were made of leather, usually the hide of a deer, and consisted of a flexible sole and a wrap around ankle-height upper portion. Often moccasins would be adorned with beadwork, leatherwork, or embroidery. The soft sole used in Eastern moccasins was ideal, as it allowed people to protect their feet from rocks and thorns, while still allowing them to feel the terrain.

Moccasins may have bead designs.
Moccasins may have bead designs.

While traditional footwear has a hard sole, which makes the foot touch the ground in a solid, flat chunk, the moccasin allows the foot to sculpt itself more naturally to the shape of the ground. This is ideal for walking quietly, and also for finding better gripping on slippery rocks. While often thought of as the footwear of hunters, the moccasin was actually worn in many tribes by most members when they needed protection from the ground.

While some tribes still include the moccasin as part of their traditional garb, such as that worn at a powwow, they are more commonly seen these days as moccasin slippers, worn by all sorts of people, especially in the United States and Europe. Moccasin slippers have many of the same benefits that traditional moccasins have, reaching a nice compromise between protection and warmth for the foot, and being able to feel the texture of the ground.

Modern moccasin slippers may be made out of any number of different leathers. Sheepskin moccasin slippers are the most popular type, and generally the most affordable, but deerskin, cow leather, and moose slippers are also seen regularly. Moccasin slippers are often lined with something other than the leather itself, often a sheep’s wool, but sometimes a heavy fleece or other material. This allows them to be even softer, and also helps them better absorb sweat from the foot.

Many moccasin slippers include leather laces, although these are largely ornamental, as most are not a tight enough fit to necessitate any sort of lace. Some also include leather ornamentation in the form of fringe, or even embroidery. They may come in a wide range of colors, from the natural colors of the hides they are made of, to bleached white leather, to dyed black leather, or any number of exotic artificial colors as well. Cheaper, hard-soled moccasin slippers generally cost anywhere from $30 US Dollars (USD) to $50 USD, while more expensive slippers made from less common hides can cost between $40 USD and $150 USD.

Moccasins were originally worn by several Native American tribes.
Moccasins were originally worn by several Native American tribes.

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