I am a sneaker guy, through and through. Nothing can change that. But these past two years have really shed a light on the fact that I am indeed not as much of a sneaker guy as I originally thought I was. That is because I’ve evolved into some sort of slip-on-and-out-the-door-to-get-back-in-as-quickly-as-possible type of person I wasn’t aware I was capable of becoming. I've learned to appreciate mules.
What Are Mules?
Mules? What are those? While mules — a type of footwear literally meaning “mullet shoe” because of its closed front and open back — have been around for centuries, dating back to the Ancient Romans who wore them strictly inside their bedrooms (like slippers), their popularity have slipped in and out (pun intended, I’m here all week) for decades. Especially for men who, like myself, may sometimes get a bit sheepish when it comes to showing off our bare heel.
And They're... Trendy?
But the past couple of years have been a nonstop coming out party for the mullet shoe with brands from sportswear to outdoors to luxury — even streetwear, too, since we heard Checks Downtown is doing a mule soon too — putting their best foot forward to get your foot slipped into a pair like Cinderella. Even Crocs are having a huge moment, with some really great collabs over the past few years showcasing they are more than just a silly rubber moc. And now that people are traveling more, whether by car or by plane, there is no way you aren’t considering finding a decent pair or two to shift gears on i-80 or shuffle about gate C’s food court before boarding that flight to Anywhere-but-here-ville.
The Best Mules for Men
So, all things considered, we wanted to make your decision easier when considering which convertible footwear to choose to taking obvious factors like comfort and versatility into account, but also making sure that style, construction and price are on point, too. Ready to slip out of winter and slide into spring? Vroom vroom.
- Best Overall Mule: Birkenstock Boston Soft Footbed
- Best Affordable Mule: The North Face Nuptse Mule
- Best Upgrade Mule: Blackstock & Weber Ellis Mule
- Most Comfortable Mule: Ales Grey Rodeo Drive Slip-On
- Most Sustainable Mule: Teva ReEmber Moc Fleece
- Diemme Maggiore Mule
- Fear of God The California Mule
- Vans Sherpa Mule SF
- Adidas x 032c GSG Mule
- Story Mfg Tomato Clog v1
- Hathenbruck Chillbies
- Simple Original Clog
When it comes to mules, there can only be one who rules the roost. It should come as no surprise that the Birkenstock Boston is indeed the Foghorn Leghorn of mullet shoes — particularly the soft footbed version with the suede uppers, giving you just enough comfort and style to go with its vast amounts of versatility. With all of the variations that have become available over the years, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a multitude of options for uppers and outsole. However, there is nothing wrong with just sticking with Taupe and wearing them with literally everything a la Jonah Hill.
If you’re looking for an indoor/outdoor shoe that looks and feels like a puffy sleeping bag for your feet, you needn’t look anymore, thanks to the North Face. With a water-repellent ripstop upper with 550-fill goose down and a durable rubber outsole, these are built for those frigid morning dog walks or jaunts to your favorite coffee shop.
These are the quintessential footwear version of a mullet; formal in the front, freaky in the back. Blackstock & Weber has been on the come-up lately, dominating the mid-tier niche loafer segment, and the introduction of their Ellis mule to their loyal followers has been met with high praise. While the price is a bit steeper than many would probably consider paying for a loafer — let alone one without the heel — you are getting some extremely high quality construction comparable to its Italian counterparts at double- or triple the price. And I can’t speak enough to the comfort, which is out of this word. Take it from me; if you’re looking for a pair that’s a little bit fancier, this is that pair.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Crocs. In fact, I’m pretty 75% of Americans own at least one pair based on my eyeball metrics. So, for someone looking for the slightly upgraded model, the Ales Grey Rodeo Slip-On should be your go-to. Vegan-made in Italy, these ultra-lightweight mocs are a 51-percent recycled foam material and are purported to be one of, if not the most, comfortable mule on the market. Hard to beat those specs at this price.
Yes, I know these are technically closed-back mocs, but they have the convertible heel! You know the saying... "if the top drops, it ain’t just a moc." OK, I just made that up, but these indoor/outdoor moc-turn-mules are sustainably made using recycled materials, including a warm fleece for the uppers and microfiber lining inside.
It’s not everyday you see a trail-ready mule that, when worn with the right pair of trousers, could 100-percent pass for a winter-ready boot. So, as I mentally visualize myself wearing the Diemme Maggliore Mule, I imagine standing on a stage in front of thousands like Hugh Jackman in The Prestige, slowly lifting my pant leg to unveil that the premium suede uppers and Vibram rubber sole they thought were just boots are in fact a Italian-made backless sport mules with shearling interiors. A plot twist no one saw coming.
These Fear of God California Mules are the penultimate of polarizing slip-ons. At $195, you’re definitely paying more than you would for a pair of Bostons without all of the visible bells and whistles. However, these are minimalistically-made in Italy of an XL Ultralight foam technology that is patented exclusively for Fear of God's use. And the styling on these definitely skew toward a more luxury, streetwear-esque audience, but the construction is built for comfort and durability — so you aren’t sacrificing anything.
How do you make a slip-on shoe even more slip-on-er? (Bear with me.) Well, Vans decided to remove the lip from the back of their classic slip-on model, and add some sherpa, to join the mule movement. This reinvented model is sure to do numbers as people love an upcycled classic — especially at this pricepoint.
Sneaker mules have not had the best track record over the years, even though the Nike Clogposite Soloslide was highly underrated. Adidas looked to change that with their collaborative mule with Berlin-based fashion magazine-turned-clothing brand, 032c. Working off of previous collaborations, these sporty slip-ons feature a neoprene upper and chunky rubber sole, finished with adidas’ signature foam cushioning for comfort and support. So, if you’re looking to spread your wings and get a little crazy, these are a great pre- and post-game slip-on to wear straight to the pub or your favorite luxury fashion establishment.
Boy, are these clogs unique. All vegan. Made in Italy. Uppers handwoven and naturally dyed in India. Cork-latex mix for the footbed. Outsole made of hemp and natural rubber. A clog from a brand that truly blends the past and the present, Story MFG is known for its eco-friendly, sustainability-driven projects, so the meticulousness of these mules to bring form, function and fashion forward is purposeful.
Even though they come from a rather plain website, possibly made before the internet was introduced, the Hathenbruck Co.’s Chillbie originals are anything but questionable. With an incredibly unique backstory, these rubber galosh/chelsea moc started in 2019 as a side project being produced in the “Information” area of the HATHENBRUCK warehouse in Salt Lake City, where they hold stock. Now, these have a cult-ish underground following of outdoor-turned-fashion enthusiasts, because who doesn’t love a durable, waterproof slip-on with a chunky sole? Join the “if you know, you know” crowd before everyone else.
Need a strapless alternative to the Boston? I suggest you look into Simple's Original Clog, which sports a suede upper and a thicker, yet lightweight rubber outsole reminiscent of something you might see from Vibram. The leather welted construction means these will certainly outlast a fabric welted cohort, and the pigskin leather footbed will conform to your feet quickly for maximum comfort — that will last, too. My only hesitation is that they express that these should feel like "home" as soon as you wear them, but since my "home" is chaotic and in a constant state of movement, I would prefer to imagine someone else's home?