Mules Are In: Here’s The Black-Owned Brands Worth Buying

Blackstock & Weber

Something about a mule makes it a more exciting buy than any other shoe. Is it the ability to comfortably wear one that isn’t only meant to protect? Does it still have the leisurely feel of something that was once only worn indoors? Or is it the eroticism that comes with one part of the foot being revealed and the rest concealed?

Indeed, part of it is the anatomy of the shoe–often having no quarters and only a vamp–which provides breathability to the heel on a warm summer day or a breeze against the ankles in spring. Although you’ll find a fair share of style savants sporting them with socks, myself included. When done well, it doesn’t compromise the integrity and functionality we expect of footwear.

But the beauty of the mule is that it was always truly genderless, as anthropologist Margo DeMello notes in her 2009 book Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia.

It has its roots in the Middle East as more of a slipper. And from prehistory onward, men and women across the globe have worn some version of it. Flat, high-heeled, patterned, plain, soft and supple, charmingly crafty, some covering the entire foot. More than anything, to echo DeMello, the mule remains sexy. Perhaps we can attribute this to the shoe being a near staple in our spring-summer wardrobes and one of fashion’s footwear obsessions. There’s even an Instagram account, @muleboyz with an accompanying podcast, The Muler Report, dedicated to mules.

Black designers are of course putting their own spin on them. That is to say, they’re making the most interesting ones on the market. Odds are you’re probably trying to figure out your footwear situation for the season.

Keep reading to find the right mules to put in your daily rotation.

The Penny Mule

Where To Buy Mules By Black Designers
Blackstock & Weber

It’s no secret Martine Rose is making some of the coolest clothes right now. Her shoes are no different. These sleek, punkish, square-toed beauties in black have the cultural cache to get you noticed on the trendiest streets of New York and London while pairing neatly with wide-leg pants. Fashion editor Shelton Boyd-Griffith can be seen wearing his on any given day during New York Fashion Week.

Footwear brand Blackstock & Weber also makes a stylish penny mule, which you can get in a leopard print or berry color. I’d play them up with other prints and bold hues for maximal effect. (They also come in onyx, chocolate, honey, bovine, croc-embossed, and with a horse bit–get on the mailing list). Equal parts classic and quirky, these double leather-soled slip-ons are sure to last, as Chris Echevarria, the brand’s founder, designs all his shoes with longevity in mind.

Go Artisanal

Where To Buy Mules By Black Designers

A lot of Black-owned footwear brands have an artisanal component to them, but these designers take it to the next level. Starting with Shekudo, whose fourteen artisans are crafting heritage-packed shoes with raw materials from across the African continent.

The Lagos-based label describes their shoes as “wearable art.” And their new Kehinde mule lives up to it; leather-lined with a hand-printed Adire upper. That’s textile art and sophistication in footwear form! The brand is also right to suggest toning them down with neutrals. Or rather, letting them be the entire outfit, which they would.  

Brother Vellies is best known for their Greg Shoe, the black and brown hair on cow ones in particular (women can get them in pink). I still want a pair. But I was thrilled to see that they now make them in a midnight color in suede. Who knew that something as quotidian and utilitarian as a clog could be this elegant? It’s a quality designer Aurora James achieves with such considered, exquisite grace.

I mentioned wearing mules with socks and these are just the ones to wear them with. I, for one, could sport them with any of my lavender, apple green, electric blue, or salmon pink socks and feel at ease. This is the kind of shoe that looks great with a pair of Bermuda shorts and the best cotton oversized button-up you can get your hands on. Maybe even with a skirt, for which Russell Westbrook makes the most compelling case.

Where To Buy Mules By Black Designers
Armando Cabral

If any designer understands the unique and interior pleasure of the mule, it is Armando Cabral. His Quebo Zip-Pouch Slippers, made by Italian artisans, come in deerskin leather for optimal softness. Cabral notes them as his “personal travel go-to.” And as the slipper’s name suggests, it even comes with a matching pouch that zips up. The mustard ones are unlike anything else on the market, as are the “milk.” But what I most appreciate about Cabral’s take on the shoe is that it reminds me of its roots as a leisurely thing. That I can be at the airport, wandering some European city, or, indeed, at home, and feel at ease.  

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