Warm Feet, Warm Heart

From the industrial wilds of East Marginal Way comes the gift of cozy tootsies. Please don't wear them to work.

I love being warm. Swaddled. Cozy. And even though I don't always love the holiday season with all its fake, flocked fun and sanctioned, store-bought joy, I can usually circumvent that by giving my loved ones gifts that are truly comforting. I just follow that familiar adage and give them things I'd like to give myself. This year, that means slippers.

Down in one of the coldest, most un-cozy neighborhoods in town, a small warehouse ships and receives one of the comfiest products around, Old Friend slippers. As you're coming into town from points south on Highway 99 or looping onto it via the West Seattle Bridge, the beige warehouse down below on East Marginal Way is an odd sight with its large, childlike rendering of a floppy dog and several careening, painted-on Web addresses wrapped around the dock doors. Follow www.oldfriendslipper.com to the company's Web site and you'll find links to two huge online footwear companies that broker their goods: zappos.com and slipperstore.com. Both Web stores offer a variety of stylesslip-ons, booties, clogs, and moccasins; all are under $50. When I last checked, slipperstore.com had several styles on sale, including my personal favorite, the simple, classic Old Friend sheepskin scuff slipper. For the ladies on my list, I like them in extra-furry pink (sale price $33.71), while on Christmas Eve, my boyfriend will unwrap a more sedate men's pair in chestnut (sale price $34.42). Old Friends also come in children's and baby sizes, so even the tiniest toes will be toasty.

Having already purchased a few pair and happily checked some names off my list, I can tell you that the heavy rubber bottoms of these slippers are absolutely durable and strong enough to allow for outdoor use. This is an important distinction in slippers; some cheaper, flimsier models cannot stand up to the dampness of a Seattle sidewalk. Now, I'm hoping that my friends and family won't be wearing their Old Friends to the grocery store or anything inappropriate like that, but for taking out the trash in inclement weather, they're more than appropriate. The napped suede exterior is velvety smooth and attractive, and the Australian sheepskin used inside has a silklike quality that's so luxurious and addictive, it seems inevitable that one of my loved ones will end up uttering an inner, "Oh, screw it," and trotting off to the office without sliding out of their slippers and into some proper shoes.

If you'd rather check out the slippers in person first, several brick-and-mortar stores carry Old Friends. In addition to Nordstrom, Pike Place Outfitters (in the Market at 93 Pike St., Suite 103, 206-622-3573) carries the brand, as does Shane's Foot Comfort Center (17735 15th Ave. N.E., 206-364-1322). If you happen to be in Leavenworth celebrating the holidays in that echt-Bavarian sort of wayor if you're just headed east of the mountains and you need to do some last-minute shoppingAgape Outback Unlimited (929 Front St., Leavenworth, 509-548-3088) stocks them as well.

Your old friends aren't into slippers? That hardly seems possible but just in case, Old Friends uses the same Australian sheepskin to produce their wooly, warming car seat covers. There's really nothing worse than a cold vinyl seat on a cold, damp Seattle morning, but a woolly Old Friend seat cover will fix that. They go for 50 or 60 bucks and are available in car accessory aisles in most superstores like Target and Fred Meyer.

While their slippers aren't actually manufactured here, Australia Unlimited, the company that makes Old Friends, has been headquartered here for over 20 yearsand buying locally is just a nice feeling, especially in this less-than-stable economy. But the real bonus is that as ordinary and, well, pedestrian as they may seem, slippersespecially ones that are at once as utilitarian and plush as Old Friendsallow you to give the gift of warmth. And everyone loves to be warm.


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