Many fashion trends are hard to explain — why they’re popular when they are often seem unmoored from whatever else is going on at the time. But the ascendant popularity of the mule for men just makes sense for right now. Of course, mules have been a closet staple for women for a long time, but men are finally catching up to the appeal of this laid-back style. When many of us are spending more time at home, there’s a value to a shoe that’s versatile enough to wear around the house and on a daily sanity walk.
Of course, that the mule is a practical shoe for the Zoom era might imply it only cropped up in 2020. But mules for men have been growing in popularity for a while now, and many of the popular options today arguably draw their inspiration from three shoes in particular, which have spearheaded the popularity of the style — the Birkenstock Boston, the Gucci Horsebit backless loafer and the Crocs Clog.
There’s the Birkenstock Boston, a stylish, hippie-ish shoe made of suede with a comfortable cork footbed. On the dressier end, Gucci’s iconic horse-bit loafer has gotten a louche upgrade in the form of a backless style, a look that’s simultaneously so luxurious and so casual that it feels like the kind of shoe you’d wear in a suite at the Chateau Marmont. Finally, there’s the dark horse of the bunch, Crocs, which are technically considered clogs, a close cousin of the mule. They’re a decidedly ugly shoe that’s gained a remarkable amount of fashion clout. All of these shoes radically diverge in design, yet they all have comfort in common.
Much like the animal it shares a name with, the mule is an interesting hybrid of two different things. Many men’s mules combine traditional outdoor shoe styles with details from house slippers. The best mules for men will be made from luxurious materials like leather that make it impossible not to want to wear them outside the house. And because men’s sneakers are still dominant, you can even find backless takes on popular styles from brands like Adidas and Vans. As great as all of these shoes are around the house, they’ll be even better for your post-pandemic hangs.
These are some of our favorite mules to buy online.
1. Birkenstock Boston Soft Footbed
If you’re going to buy a single mule, make it the Birkenstock Boston. It may be a little adventurous if you were raised on a fashion diet of simple sneakers and dressy boots, but the Boston is enough of a classic that you’ll be able to work it into your wardrobe — it wears well with jeans, work pants and it can be worn with shorts, too. This shoe has a soft cork footbed and a supple suede upper. You can also choose leather options from this listing.
2. Vince Men’s Alonzo Basketweave Slippers
These slippers from Vince are made from tan suede with a basketweave pattern on the upper, giving the shoes the look of a Frankensteined hybrid between a pair of Minnetonka moccasins, checkerboard Vans and a Bottega Veneta wallet. And as weird as that sounds, these shoes look surprisingly stylish. The upper is suede and the bottom is grippy rubber. If you want a dressier version of these, there’s a black leather option as well.
3. Vans Checkerboard Slip-on Mule
Speaking of Vans, there’s a good chance that if you own canvas sneakers, you sometimes step on the backs to wear them around, instead of actually slipping them on the right way. This slip-on mule from Vans makes it easier by doing away with the back of the shoe entirely. Vans also make mule versions of their other iconic sneakers like the Authentic and the Old Skool. It’s worth noting that these are unisex, so the sizing is limited in larger men’s sizes.
4. Gucci Princetown Horsebit Backless Loafers
If we’re going to include a ludicrously expensive shoe, we’re going to include the most ludicrously expensive version of that shoe. This mule, based on Gucci’s classic Horsebit loafer, was introduced by visionary designer Alessandro Michele. This version has been updated with a supremely soft shearling lining.
5. Greats The Foster Slipper
Greats built their brand making the kinds of sneakers you could wear with a suit, but they just so happen to make one of the best casual slippers around. The Foster slipper is a stylish option with a nylon upper and a thick rubber sole. It’s built for indoor wear, but it’s a great option to wear around town, too. True to their commitment to sustainability, the upper is made from recycled nylon and the sole is made from natural rubber.
6. Armando Cabral Quebo Mule
For guys that are used to ruggedly durable work boots, these positively dainty mules from Armando Cabral might feel like a shock to the system. But once you slip them on, you’re unlikely to want to take them off. They’re made from classic calfskin leather and are available in brown or bright blue leather. Wear them the way Dickie Greenleaf might — with a barely buttoned camp collar shirt and some shorts, and preferably within rock-throwing range of the ocean.
7. Crocs Classic Hiker
However you feel about them, it’s clear that Crocs aren’t going anywhere. These Crocs have been updated with a rugged pink ripple sole with a chunky wedge design. The vibrant tie-dye upper is sure to get you noticed, too. Of course, they also maintain the reliable comfort of Crocs. Unlike most of the shoes on this list, these have an ankle strap for added support.
8. Rhodes Footwear The Leather House Shoe
HOUSE SHOES FOR ANYWHERE
If the Armando Cabral mules feel a little too precious, this slip-on from Rhodes ought to do the trick. It has a more substantial sole, and the low counter provides a little coverage to the heel, without sacrificing the ability to easily slip them on and off. They come in two shades of brown and are made from full-grain leather. They’re technically house shoes, but come on, you’ll want to wear these everywhere.
9. Adidas x 032c Mule
This men’s mule from Adidas looks like it was made for a very laid-back apocalypse. The chunky wedge sole gives traction, and the upper is made from neoprene. These shoes were made by Adidas in collaboration with 032c, a magazine and design studio. They still have Adidas classic three-stripes branding, although these won’t be confused for your standard Superstars anytime soon.
10. Asportuguesas by Fly London Come Slip-on Sneaker Mule
Just when you think you’ve seen all the footwear world has to offer, these mules from Asportuguesas by Fly London come flying at you. They borrow elements from Norwegian felted wool slippers, but they have a distinctive ripple wedge sole that sets it apart from the average slipper. The sole is made from a comfortable mixture of cork and latex, and the speckled design almost looks like terrazzo. The upper is made from wool, a material that’s naturally odor-resistant.