Nostalgia Sunday

June 29, 2008 - 12:46 PM by

Sometime today, I’ve got to go out and find some na’aley bayit to send to America. It may seem odd to be writing about bedroom slippers just as the summer heat hits its full stride but my sister’s birthday was last week, and she apparently already bought the Yael Naim disk sent her. So, if it is na’aley bayit she wants, then na’aley bayit she shall have.

Na’aley bayit translates literally as “house shoes” and indeed, the classic Israeli “naal bayit” is far more a shoe for the home than a slip-on slipper. Firstly, it’s ankle-high with a zipper, so there’s no casual sliding in and out of the thing. Secondly, it’s got a hard rubber sole – perfect for the faux casual “whoops, I’m just slumming here at the café and didn’t notice I had my bedroom slippers on” sort of way of life. Thirdly, they’re plaid! How cool is that?! They make a total statement.
HaMegaper slippers
Now, the question is, what is that statement? Is it:
1. I’m accidentally on purpose walking around my neighborhood where I feel so comfortable that I wear shoes that don’t coordinate with my outfit which I had to zip myself into.
2. I was locked out of my house. Really. I’m not kidding.
3. I’m an ex-kibbutznik or have spent some time on kibbutz.

The answer: All three are possible.

In the Israeli mentality, na’aley bayit are inexorably bound to two things: the kibbutz and Rehov Sumsum, the Hebrew language version of Sesame Street. On the Socialist side, their original and largest manufacturer was HaMegaper, a rubber manufacturing cooperative established under the aegis of construction company Solel Boneh and then the Koor concern. Initially, according to Haaretz’s Dalia Karpel, HaMegaper manufactured tires for the British Army during Israel’s pre-state period. Later on, it began manufacturing hiking boots and slippers made of cloth, leather – all with polyethylene rubber soles. The unique manufacturing method enabled the cloth, leather and rubber to fuse seamlessly without stitching.

Wearing na’aley bayit in public gained ground in the 1970s, Karpel writes, “HaMegaper’s ads promised us that we’d feel at home in their shoes, but many who wanted the ‘laid-back look’ walked around in slippers outside as well. Kibbutzniks did it first, but city dwellers jumped on the bandwagon and turned wearing HaMegaper slippers into one of the most visible indicators of Israel’s youth.’” Popstars such as Shalom Hanoch, Meir Ariel and Alon Oleartchik popularized the look by wearing their plaid slippers outside and onstage, and HaMegaper promoted it to the hilt:
HaMegaper poster ad

And who better to wear indoor wear outside if not Kipi Kipod, the urban hedgehog host of Rehov Sumsum, who sported a pair of outsized na’aley bayit throughout the show’s run.

All pop culture trends tend to wane once they hit the kindergarten set. And so it was with na’aley bayit. HaMegaper was dissolved some years ago, and other, lesser manufacturers took up the na’aley bayit mantle. So you can still get them, but only really unhip stores or the open market shuk. Sad to say, despite a few feeble retro attempts to bring back the look, (and my sister’s loyalty), na’aley bayit are part of Israeli fashion history.

Comments

7 Comments on Nostalgia Sunday

  1. Becky Neiman on Sun, Jun 29th 2008 6:21 PM
  2. Part of Israeli fashion history but future fashion for the World!

  3. Lisa Aidan on Mon, Jun 30th 2008 9:12 AM
  4. I always thought they were an under rated fashion statement and have been waiting for them to take off as the next “dernier cri” for years now!

  5. avi on Tue, Aug 26th 2008 5:18 PM
  6. I remember these from my youth, and would love to find another pair to wear now, but I live in New York now. Does anyone know where to buy them online?
    contact me at pita_bigtime@hotmail.com
    thank you

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  7. michael on Tue, Feb 24th 2009 2:07 AM
  8. i never thought they were a fashion statement, just a great pair of slippers. in fact, i’m still wearing the pair i bought in israel 37 years ago! would love to buy a new pair. if anyone knows how, please email me.

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