Kitchen Shoes Can and Should Be Ugly

Kitchen

The other week I unwittingly stumbled on a controversial subject within my workplace. I asked my coworkers about their preferred footwear in the kitchen, only to learn that many of them are steadfast barefoot cooks and balked at my insistence on owning a pair of kitchen shoes.

Now I agree wholeheartedly with my coworkers who have a “no shoe” household. I absolutely feel that outdoor shoes, especially those that trek through the refuse and unidentified fluids of city streets, should not venture past the front door. Kitchen shoes, or house shoes generally, are special shoes that stay inside, and remain unsoiled by the outside world.

I wear kitchen shoes because as much as I would like to never spill anything on the floor, I do so regularly. On top of that, there is nothing that makes me feel more unsettled, more physically perturbed than stepping on crumbs, a slightly tacky floor, or a small puddle of dishwater with bare or socked feet. Kitchen shoes are also a matter of safety. I hope you never drop a sharp object while cooking, but if you do, I hope your feet are protected. Plus, they offer more support to those spending long hours cooking dinner and cleaning up.

Beyond the issue of comfort and safety, kitchen shoes are fun because they can be absolutely hideous and it doesn’t matter. The best kitchen shoes look like something that should be locked away in the secret catacombs beneath the Bata Shoe Museum. As long as they are comfortable, the funkier the kitchen shoe, the better.

Below are some great kitchen shoes, all of which make their own unique, visual statement.

The Hygge

You may disagree, but personally, I don’t think Haflinger clogs, which are my kitchen shoe of choice, are hideous. They have an undeniable cozy charm to them with their round shape, felted-wool covering, and decorative stitched border. I was worried that the felt might get dirty and stained, but I’ve spilled all sorts of things on them and have managed to clean them up with a bristle brush and some mild wool soap. I love these shoes so much, I hope I’m wearing them when I am old and putzing about in the rundown New England barn I’ll likely be squatting in.

The Kitchen Professional

While at home, my coworker Kendra prefers to go shoeless in the kitchen, but she has relied on Dansko clogs when at the test kitchen for work. Danskos are popular in the restaurant industry for their nonslip tread and for providing comfortable support for long periods of standing.

The Quirky European

Several of my colleagues at Bon Appétit have raved about Calzuro, an Italian clog company with shoes that look like what you’d get if you crossbred Danksos with Crocs. They are comfortable, yes, but also come in a wide range of punchy colorways, many of which remind me of those swirly marbled bowling balls.

The Cool Doctor

I like the lesser-seen Birkenstock, the Super Birki, because it is both plain and loud. The lack of detail and bright colors makes this shoe look like life-size versions of famously chewable Polly Pocket footwear. They’re made of polyurethane, which is resistant to oil and grease and washable at up to 176° F. The footbed is the same iconic Birkenstock shape that granola folk will know and love. These shoes are professional and fun, like my psychiatrist who goes to Burning Man every year.

The Cosmic Clomper

My boss, David, likes to wear these hybrid shoe/sock slippers during the chilly half of the year to keep his feet warm in the kitchen while he makes loaf after loaf of bread. According to the brand, astronauts have worn Acorn slipper socks during missions on the International Space Station. So when a guest points at your feet and says, “Good god, what on earth are you wearing?” You can smugly say, “Not just on Earth, also in space.”

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