“…Anyone who’s ever visited a Turkish home knows not to enter wearing outdoor shoes. Given the state of the pavements both in Kayseri and elsewhere in the country, and the fact that interior cleanliness is highly regarded in Turkey, this makes good sense. Shoes are automatically removed and left outside the door or inside the entry hall. Where they’re placed depends as much on the security of the location as on the owner’s obsession with order. After living in Turkey for a while you quickly learn to think about what shoes you plan to wear when you’re going visiting, and the state of your socks or stockings. You don’t want to be the last one standing alone on the door mat while the host hovers nearby, watching anxiously as you struggle to undo your complicated laces while everyone else is already seated inside. Even worse, once your shoes have finally joined the others in neat rows set out along the walls is not the time to discover the hole in your sock revealing a big toe, and if you’re a woman, a big toenail unadorned by nail polish.
I don’t like wearing slippers because my feet get hot easily, especially inside the overheated apartments favoured by Turks. However, unless the home owner is a good friend, it’s nearly impossible to refuse the proffered slippers. Unfortunately too, form often follows function rather than style. I once spent an otherwise enjoyable night at the home of a student quietly ignoring the feelings of dismay that arose every time I caught sight of the chunky white, strappy, high-heeled sandals I had been given to wear with my all black outfit.
In recounting this fashion faux pas to my colleagues in Kayseri, I learnt that slippers can also be a fashion statement, and are sometimes more expensive than ordinary shoes. There are shops around the country devoted wholly to slippers, offering anything from flat practical models designed to warm the feet to luxurious pairs sporting spike heels, glitter and feathers. Married women from upper class families across the country spend a lot of their days and many of their evenings visiting. They have slippers to complement every outfit, carefully transported from home to home in a drawstring bag specially made to match their outfit. The very wealthy will even buy internationally famous brand name shoes and keep them solely for indoor use.
For families who employ a helper in their home, usually a woman who comes to clean, cook and possibly baby sit, it’s normal for the employer to buy them slippers to wear on the job. The reasons will vary from situation to situation. It could be because they want her to feel welcome, they might worry she won’t want to carry her own slippers with her every day from home or maybe they know she can’t afford to buy herself a nice pair, befitting a guest in their home.
At the other end of the spectrum is the toilet slipper. ..”
You can get the complete lowdown on Turkish slippers in the 2nd Edition of my essay collection, Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City.