IF YOU HAVEN’T YET heard the urban legend about the rat that scurried across a sandal-clad woman’s toes in the New York subway, my apologies for ruining your summer. I’ve certainly curtailed my city sandal-wearing since hearing that tale. Thankfully, a more sanitary summer-shoe option—the moccasin—may already be in your closet. If not, the style, currently in vogue, is easily within reach.
This tanned leather slipper is generally traced back to the Native Americans. Designs varied greatly from tribe to tribe, with elements including porcupine quills and beading, according to Cécile R. Ganteaume, associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian. Over the past century, the slip-ons have been creatively reinterpreted by stalwarts such as the 72-year-old Minnetonka Moccasin company and luxury brands like Saint Laurent.
“It’s lightweight,” said David Miller, the third-generation CEO of Minnetonka Moccasin. “You can wear it without socks, slip it on, slip it off.”
This summer, New York-based designer Gabriela Hearst has riffed on the classic, encasing a croc-embossed leather moccasin in colorful crochet that’s too nice for forest traipsing but suitable for lazier vacationing. “They can liven up a serious outfit,” she said of the adaptable shoes, “but also go on holiday.” Tod’s, the Italian accessories brand that has cornered the market on nubby-soled driving mocs, trimmed this season’s version in extra-long fringe, aptly naming it the Yorky.
“Moccasins work for everything,” said Los Angeles-based stylist Laurie Trott, who, come summer, shuns overly trendy sneakers and overly heavy brogues. Ms. Trott considers them a perfect non-statement statement shoe. “They’re stylish but not wearing you.”
Subtly fashionable, versatile and excellent at foiling rats—who needs more?