Cuban Two-Step


Born in Britain, the velvet slipper is coming a long way—all the way to Cuba—thanks to Stubbs & Wootton, the company that has popularized the velvet slipper to extreme and whimsical proportions since its founding, in 1993. Often hailed as the preeminent maker of men’s and women’s Prince Alberts (as the slippers are known, after the British prince who popularized them in the 19th century), Stubbs & Wootton is infusing the quintessentially aristocratic footwear staple with Latin flair, in a capsule collection inspired by the Caribbean island.

Though Cuban relations are certainly in the news today, they’ve always been close at heart for Stubbs & Wootton. In fact, the company’s founder, Percy Steinhart, was born in Cuba. Steinhart came to the United States when he was 10 and had always dreamed of becoming an architect. In the end, he went to work in the international private banking division at Citicorp, but eventually decided to reinvent himself and pick up his dream of pursuing a more creative passion. He had been spending a lot of time in Palm Beach and noticed that many of the men and women there wore velvet slippers. Thinking he could improve upon them by offering a wider and more whimsical array, he quit Citicorp and founded his footwear company that today reigns supreme as the go-to slipper brand.

Steinhart has certainly done his share to evolve the shoe. He finds inspiration everywhere—from crests and shields you’d expect for a shoe of aristocratic birth, to sporting and nautical themes, to images and phrases that catch his attention (be they sewing machine covers or a simple “The End” sign at the close of a black-and-white movie). The Cuban story came naturally to him and was developed over time, from found objects or familiar logos from his youth: a pair of dancers on one pair, for instance, was inspired by travel posters from the 1950s; the “Visit Cuba” phrasing on another pair was spotted on a painted leather dice cup found in an antique shop in La Habana. Some motifs are emblems from the old-school Cuban sporting clubs: the Habana Yacht Club, the Country Club de la Habana, and the Vedado Tennis Club.

Materials like straw and raffia were chosen to evoke a sense of Cuba in the ’50s; signature Stubbs & Wootton velvets and linens were selected for others in accordance to club color codes. As for Steinhart’s favorite pair? It would have to be the Yacht Club monogram, which he found embedded in the center of the vast terrazzo loggia of the club. “I recall the t-shirts and basketball tanks we wore for intramural sports,” Steinhart explains. “They were literally intra muros, since I don’t remember playing against any other clubs—if there were any.” We’re just glad that today there’s a club known as Stubbs.