The Curious Case of Polish Slippers

Home Slippers

In my observation, Polish people are crazy about Polish slippers. Crazy good, not crazy bad. And I guess in Poland they aren’t called Polish slippers, just slippers, and not in English but in Polish.

When you visit someone not only is it customary as a guest to remove your shoes, but it seems to be customary as a host to provide some slippers for your guest, often taking them still warm from your feet. Maybe this stems from the idea that in Poland your guest is king or from the fact that your living room area rug has to last you a lifetime.

Where are my paputki?!

Once a Vice-President from a big leasing company invited me to have a lesson in his home rather than at the office. I think it was a holiday or something. Anyhow, it was snowing so I insisted on taking off my wet, dirty shoes, and he promptly presented me with slippers, the paputki kind which resembled something that Santa’s elves would wear. I felt strange enough sitting in this guy’s home, but in these paputki I felt ridiculous. Then his wife came home and shouted, “Gdzie są moje paputki?!” (Where are my slippers?!) Yikes!

Work Slippers

Slippers not only play a major role at home, but also at work. I remember that I first became aware of the importance
of slippers in Poland when I was working in a high school teaching English. I noticed that all admin staff and cleaning crew wore slippers at work (and let’s not forget the all too sexy fartuch – flowery apron) as well as some teachers. I remember exiting the school one day with an absent-minded teacher who had forgotten to change from his slippers back into his shoes. He discovered that fact just as he planted his foot in a big puddle. Oops!

Once when starting a new contract in a software company, I stepped off the elevator and straight onto beautiful, lush wall-to-wall carpeting. Not the typical office carpeting, but the kind that you sink into when you walk across it and the kind that leaves satisfying paths when you run the vacuum across it. I noticed some IT guys walking around wearing their IT uniform, sweater, jeans, slippers. Nothing new. But then I saw the managers in suits, men and women alike, all in slippers. After they showed me the conference room, kitchen, bathroom, copy machine and introduced me to my students, I inquired if I should bring slippers. They looked at me strangely and said no, but c’mon I’m just saying…

They’re just slippers

On TVN Style, an old TV channel with programs directed to ladies I think, I watched a talk show program about child abuse vs spanking. A well-known politician (so well-known that I cannot remember who it was) admitted to having spanked his daughter because she once again was not wearing slippers at home. The interviewer asked him if those slippers were worth spanking his daughter. He replied that it had been worth it because not only had she disobeyed him, but also she had exposed her feet to the cold making her more susceptible to illness.

School Slippers

That brings us to the slipper-wearing customs in our family, or rather lack of. I started wearing slippers just a few years ago. I had to buy some kind of slippers (and a robe) when I went to the hospital. In fact I bought my husband bought them for me at the hospital from the hospital kiosk. After that I just started wearing them I guess because I had them. My children didn’t have slippers so it was a bit of a problem to introduce this habit to our daughters before going to Preschool. We let them pick out their own pretty slippers and problem solved, except our older daughter wanted to bring them back home from Preschool each and every day. At least we found a use for her worek (school sack). Parents had to take off their shoes before entering classroom, too. It is a problem for me. I was having a sock crisis.

Favorite Slippers

My current faves are my hand-embroidered Zakopane models sent to me by a lovely lady who follows me on Instagram. Second runner up goes to the machine-ebroidered pair I picked up at the Pierogi Festival in Kraków a couple of years ago.

Slippers po polski

I don’t know all the words for slippers in Polish but we have kapcie, paputki, papcie, papucie, kierpce, even klapki or klapeczki. Do you know any more?

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  • Reply
    January 17, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    Love this post about slippers. I wear house shoes when I’m inside (grew up with that custom) and only wish I could get my husband to follow as well… when hosting Japanese students years ago, they also brought their slippers. I think it’s a great thing myself.

    • Reply
      January 17, 2021 at 6:52 pm

      Now I am hooked. I even choose different slippers depending on the clothes I am wearing. I could never wear shoes in the house now.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    Of course “laczki” and “ciapy”.

    • Reply
      January 17, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Laczki and ciapy are added to my list. That just reminded me that getting a flat tire is złapać kapcia 🙂

  • Reply
    January 17, 2021 at 6:06 pm

    Pantofle to oficjalna nazwa.

    • Reply
      January 17, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      How could I forget pantofelki! I will add it to my personal list.

  • Reply
    January 17, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    In Lublin and its region home slippers are called ‘ciapy’ and one other region uses the word ‘pantofle’.

    • Reply
      January 17, 2021 at 6:53 pm

      Very good to know about the regions. Thanks for the extra info!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    My husband is Polish, and the whole slipper situation upon my first introduction to Poland threw me for a loop! Lol. I was raised a barefoot girl and I cannot do the slippers in summer, no matter what (winter, yes). I LOVE the Zakopane slippers! I’m enjoying your blog.

    • Reply
      January 18, 2021 at 6:24 pm

      Hi Katie,
      I’m glad that you are enjoying the blog, and yes, Polish husbands and Polish slippers take some time to get used to. Those Zakopane slippers were a gift and I just love them. As a gift, they really hit the target. I’d wear them outside if I could 😉

  • Reply
    January 22, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    25+ years in the US and I still wear (and always will) my slippers, even in Houston, even in the summer:) The slip-on ones are laczki in Poznan, the other types are paputki 🙂 It was a challenge for my husband when we visited relatives, and he was greeted with uncle’s laczki 🙂 My mom always had extra pairs for when visitors came.

  • Reply
    J.B. POLK
    January 24, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    Well as a native Pole this is a wonderful memory. And, as one knows that you must take off your shoes when you vist and change for kapcie, you never ever go out with holes in your socks!

    • Reply
      January 25, 2021 at 5:33 am

      Yes, absolutely no holes! 😉

  • Reply
    December 27, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    We called them “slapki”, the l is a w sound.

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