written by Phillip D. Johnson
While Uggs continues to be a popular choice for winter, the brand has lost some ground in recent years. However, there’s a new competitor in the marketplace and it may be the one to dethrone Uggs for good. Slovz Russian Handmade Felt Boots (http://www.slovz.com/), a young Dutch label that merges Russian and Western culture with one foot in tradition and the other in fashion–inspired by the traditional Valenki and adapted to Western trends and comfort–recently launched its Fall/Winter 2013 Boots Collection; and fashionistas far and wide are taking notice.
SLOVZ are handmade boots–made from 100% sheep wool–are the modern version of a traditional boot that has been battling the Siberian cold for over 300 years. The Russians regard this boot, the Valenki, as an important part of their national cultural heritage, which is handcrafted out of one piece and form to your feet for a perfect fit. Initially they were worn by farmers on the countryside but Siberian coachmen, known as Yamschiks, spearheaded their reach throughout Russia, popularizing them amongst all walks of life from well known politicians to legendary czars. Their seamless shape and unique material give these boots a rugged look that is sure to turn heads in the streets and will keep your feet warm even throughout the coldest of winters.
Czar Peter The Great even believed them to have healing powers, especially to counter bad hangovers. After a night of heavy vodka drinking, he would recommend people to consume a bowl of sour cabbage soup and wear a pair of Valenki on their bare feet to detox. The boot’s legacy continued into the 1900’s on the feet of the Soviet Union’s infantry. It is even said that the Valenki contributed to the Red Army’s victory over Hitler’s Wehrmacht during the freezing winters on the tundra’s of Moscow. These boots are still standard issue winter gear for the modern Russian army and are the most commonly used footwear in Siberia to this day.
SLOVZ are made from 100% pure Russian sheep wool with traditional craftsmanship and attention for mother nature and guaranteed to keep your feet nice and warm, even at temperatures down to -40 degrees. Although a lot of manufacturers have started to make felted boots through a modern mechanized process, SLOVZ are handmade in the tradition of the original 300 year old Valenki, which gives them their superior quality and strong, yet soft feel.
One single piece of 100% Russian sheep wool is rolled to create each boot, slowly merging the wool fibers into the felted boots’ unique shape. The rubber overshoes of the Classic SLOVZ, also known as galoshes, are removable from the felt boot and you can put them on when going outside to keep your boots clean and dry and take them off when inside to still keep you feet warm and comfortable. The thick soles of the SLOVZ Classic Plus are fixed directly to the felt boot using a technique which was invented in the early 20th century called vulcanization. This gives you the benefits of a sturdy rubber sole while still maintaining the comfort and warmth of the traditional Valenki. The most common colors of Valenki are brown and white because they are the natural colors of the wool. The company also offers SLOVZ in black by dying the wool with natural colorings. (Black SLOVZ is dyed and may rub off or bleed onto light-colored clothing.)
One thing is certain; with SLOVZ you’ll never have cold feet again. Made in Russia where the temperature can easily drop down to a freezing -40 degrees Celsius, SLOVZ can guarantee that they will keep you warm even in the coldest of winters. Their height and seamless shape make sure that no snow will enter these boots, so bring on the blizzards! And even when the weather isn’t that extreme, your comfort will be. SLOVZ love your feet and that feeling will soon be mutual. When you get your new pair their insides have a neutral shape. And because they don’t contain any woven materials, they have no pre-fixed shape. You could even change left and right if you feel like it. When you start walking on them however, the wool fibers start to shape the inside of your SLOVZ to the anatomy of your feet. After a few days they will fit perfectly and soon feel like a second skin. On top of that, the felted material stimulates blood circulation and gives your feet a relaxing massage all day long.
When you go outside, the rubber overshoe protects you and your boots from dirt and puddles. When you get home you can kick them off and enjoy your SLOVZ like a cozy pair of slippers.
TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR PAIR OF SLOVZ IN TOP SHAPE
When going outside onto the city-streets, make sure you put on your Galoshes (rubber overshoes). They will protect your SLOVZ from dirt and water and provide extra grip when it gets slippery during wintertime.
SLOVZ are made of 100% sheep wool. If you get them wet remember never to dry them near a stove or other heat source. The combination of water and heat may cause the wool to shrink. Take off the rubber overshoe and let your boots dry at room temperature. If you get some dirt/mud on your Slovz, let the stain dry first and then clean it off with a brush. Keep your SLOVZ looking fresh by cleaning the felt with a damp cloth once in a while. The removable Galoshes can be taken off and easily rinsed with water.
When you get a new pair of SLOVZ, give them a day or two to adjust to your feet. If you have any doubt when picking the right size for your SLOVZ, remember that they tend to be a bit large in size. Because SLOVZ are made by hand and crafted from natural wool, they may vary slightly in height and color making every pair unique.
On top of the classic Russian designs, SLOVZ will add new models to their collection every season.