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Debbie Weingarten

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The Uneasy Marriage of Fashion and Function, or I Tried Mop Slippers

Why some clothes should just stay clothes

I’m not exactly sure how the mop slippers found me.

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One day this winter, a small ad box began appearing on my Facebook. I remember vaguely noticing it, but it was like watching scenery out the window of a car — a bit blurry, and there were so many other things to focus on. But week after week, the ad was still there, and then one day, I really saw it — the image of a foot wearing a bright green rug-looking thing.

Image: Debbie Weingarten

A week after noticing it, the mop slipper began to wear me down. I became curious. Eventually, I clicked.

"This pair of microfiber mop slippers makes cleaning the floor fun and easy; just slide along the surface and pick up dust, dirt, and hair," said Groupon.

They were discounted to $7.99. I found myself thinking that actually seemed quite reasonable for a pair of slippers that could double-function as a mop. I imagined sliding over to my French Press while simultaneously mopping the floor.

Perhaps I had been too quick to judge. Quickly thereafter, I decided I probably needed them in my life.

On the Internet, you really can find anything — hoodies with built-in headphones, bras that convert into face masks in case of a radiation emergency. Mop slippers inhabit the (vast) nexus between fashion and function — the philosophy being to kill two, or more, birds with one stone.

Image: The Empowerment Plan

On one end of the spectrum glide the mop slippers. They’re in strong company with beer helmets, umbrella hats, and a bra that serves as a wine flask. For these products, the novelty alone seems to drive consumer interest, obscuring the fact that these are not actually essential contributions to society.

The beer helmet is in stark contrast to the genius ideas — hacks and inventions that do make profound differences in the lives of people. The EMPWR Coat, made by the Detroit nonprofit, The Empowerment Plan, is one such example. The coat, which is water-resistant and self-heating, also transforms into a sleeping bag. The Empowerment Plan estimates that for every 1,000 coats it provides to the homeless community, 14 lives are saved and annual healthcare costs are reduced by approximately $58,800. A similar coat was designed by the Royal College of Art in London for Syrian refugees. It’s made of Tyvek, a strong lightweight material, and is lined with Mylar to hold in body heat. The jacket can zip into a sleeping bag, but can also be converted to a tent.

My demographic is as follows: I’m a white, sleep-deprived, single mom in my early thirties. I work from home. In the last six months, I bought a Shark vacuum cleaner on Amazon. Sometimes I can my own tomato sauce; I’ve blogged about this. I’ve googled the following: "how to remove baby vomit from leather shoes" and "how to take apart a bathtub drain." I think it’s pretty clear that Mark Zuckerberg and his algorithm gurus have zeroed in on me.

Image: Debbie Weingarten

Zuckerberg also thinks I need a mermaid blanket, the advertisement for which appeared after I started researching Snuggies for this article. The blanket hybrid could easily be its own article. According to an interview published in American Express’ OPEN Forum, the original blanket hybrid was invented in 1997. Gary Clegg, a college freshman living in a drafty college dormitory, became annoyed that he had to expose his arms above his blanket in order to point the remote control at the TV. He cut a hole in his blanket, and later commissioned his mother to sew arms on it, creating the world’s first hybrid blanket: The Slanket. In 2008, the Snuggie appeared with an impressive marketing choreography (unlike its predecessor, the humble and quiet Slanket). The Snuggie hit the big box stores, starred in infomercials, and attracted a cult-like following. In 2009, the band Weezer included a free custom-printed Weezer Snuggie with the purchase of their new album Raditude. Now cities host Snuggie Bar Crawls, which is exactly what it sounds like.

If the hybrid blanket industry celebrates the art of lounging in comfort, the activewear industry is a functional fashion craze that celebrates actually moving. Now bank tellers who like yoga can go to work and a mid-day yoga class without changing their pants. Athletic apparel is made with fabrics that wick, cool, provide sun protection, or retain body temperature. Running shoes are designed to make you move faster, jump higher, or give you more energy. When we combine these fabrics with wearable technology (like the FitBit or Apple watch), we’re like bionic humans — ready to hurtle over felled logs, keep track of our farts, analyze our heart rates, and answer emails all at the same damn time.

So, here I am, at home on a sunny Saturday morning. The kitchen smells like waffles. I’m sipping coffee, avoiding the breakfast dishes, and wearing a pair of hot pink mop slippers. They are about as hot pink as you could possibly imagine. My toddler keeps coming into the room and pulling on one of the tassels. My 4-year-old engineers a game where they crawl down the hallway and sneak up on the slippers. Then they shriek and run away giggling.

Image: Debbie Weingarten

It’s hard to tell who actually makes the mop slippers, because Groupon seems to have tried really hard to hide that shit. Really, they’re just mop covers that have been sewn in the rough dimensions of something you could potentially put on your feet. They fit over my feet in the same way they would fit over a small dog or a mailbox. Or, say, the head of a mop. I could probably wear one as a hat if I really wanted to.

They’re not made well — there’s about a foot of extra string from the sewing machine still attached to them. They’re also not very comfortable. I’ve been shifting around the floor of my house, which is a combination of old wood and laminate. I feel like a cat walking on something sticky and I keep picking up my feet to see if I’m actually mopping my floor.

When my friend calls to see what I’m doing, I say, "I’m trying to mop using only my feet, but I feel like I’m walking around on a pile of noodles."

She laughs at me. My kids laugh at me. As I’m sliding along in the kitchen, the dog eyes me suspiciously. When I run my foot along the base of the kitchen cabinets, I pick up some cat hair and kick some Cheerios across the floor. After Morning #1, I’m thinking if you want the entire Universe to laugh at you, get a pair of mop slippers.

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