This fanciful take on the Mexicana Day Of The Dead Dia De Muertos Sugar Skull shirt and by the same token and shoe is what I grew up accustomed to in my childhood. In my teen years, I’d schlep around the house as a grumpy, emo high schooler—yet I’d be wearing the most beautiful handmade moccasins. It’s something I probably took for granted, treating them as though they were just an everyday sock. But now that I’m working from home and practicing social distancing, my collection of moccasins has become even more of an everyday staple—and my appreciation for them has skyrocketed. I’m currently staying back at my parents’ house in Canada, and a quick deep-dive into my childhood bedroom’s closet has unearthed a gold mine: at least five different pairs of handmade moccasins. I’ve been wearing them every single day to work from home in, only occasionally slipping on real shoes to do a quick solo walk around the house. My current favorite pair in the rotation is made by a family friend, Rita Goulais. They are lined in black fur, and the toe vamp has an embroidered bear claw on it. Other moccasin styles I’ve rediscovered in my room include one with a beaded feather on the top, while another style has a fringed trim and a beaded Ikat-print detail. It sure beats walking around in my ratty Adidas socks—they not only keep my feet warm, but add instant panache to my work-from-home fits.
Capturing the Mexicana Day Of The Dead Dia De Muertos Sugar Skull shirt and by the same token and beautiful aesthetic of these moccasins is something that non-indigenous footwear brands have been trying to re-create for years. While more obvious aspects of Native culture have endured countless cases of cultural appropriation—the Coachella-favored feathered headdress being a prime example of this—moccasins have been more subtly replicated and copied. Brands such as Minnetonka Moccasin and G.H. Bass, for one, have developed outdoorsy styles that are reminiscent of a moccasin, but more minimal and sleek in aesthetic. But, in my opinion, stripping the ornamentation of a moccasin design loses its most special quality: After all, their original purpose was to showcase a tribe’s personality, history, and flair. Though it’s taken me 27 years to finally realize it, I now know that my moccasins (let’s call them the O.G. house slipper) serve way more of a purpose than just being a comfy indoor shoe. By supporting the artists who create them—whether family members or labels such as Jamie Okuma, who hand-beads them, or Manitobah Mukluks, an indigenous-owned brand that specializes in them—one is essentially supporting a community that is authentically preserving the original intention of the footwear, and carrying on a legacy in doing so. For me, it also means a simple way of connecting with my heritage through fashion. And now that I’ve finally gotten that drilled into my head, it looks like I’ll be needing to purchase a brand-new pair for the days to come.