A HISTORY OF THE BABOUCHE SLIPPER

CAROLYN ASOME EXPLORES THE LONG HISTORY AND BALLY'S VERY MODERN INCARNATION OF THE BABOUCHE SLIPPER

Puritans may doubt the orthopaedic benefits of wearing a shoe that is little more than a structured (silk-covered) slipper, but style aficionados have long embraced Aladdin's footwear - the babouche.

The traditional babouche hails from the Middle East, where Bedouins and monarchs have been shuffling around in them for centuries. The French 'babouche' comes from the Arabic 'babush' or Persian 'papush', the flat, slipper-like style with an exaggerated point at the toes, which became fashionable amongst 17th-century French courtiers. Possibly because their ultra-soft soles were suggestive of a devil-may-care attitude to dressing and a life that was populated with wall-to-wall gophers and - more importantly - a driver.

The babouches favoured by fashion editors don't curl at the toe, like the medieval style found in Marrakech souks. Cutting quite a dash these season, they are infinitely preferable to a ballet slipper and offer far more panache than an orthopaedic-looking sandal. These comfortable flats are rendered more practical with stiffer soles but still exude an understated nonchalance. Naysayers of the comfortable shoe trend may finally be cajoled into attempting something that is assuredly more elegant.

Few other flatties offer the versatility of a babouche: a holiday shoe that nails a casual elegance but will also see you from the pool, out to Roman ruins, all through lunch, cocktails and out to dinner. Whatever you settle for, chances are you'll be wanting more than one pair.