A funny thing has happened the past few years that cannot be overlooked: the mule has become a very popular piece of footwear. What is it about the mule that makes it so appealing? Is it the Instagram feed @muleboyz, which has brought to light the style and beauty that a mule can provide? Is it the fact that Birkenstocks in general have come roaring back, and in particular the Birkenstock Boston, which is arguably the greatest mule of all time?
It’s difficult to deny some obvious reasons why the mule has become so desired again: the natural ease of sliding your foot right in, instead of having to sit down, tighten up your shoe, and lace it. But what exactly is a mule, and how does it differ from, say, a clog? Technically, a mule is a shoe that doesn’t have a backing or constraint around the heel, whereas a clog can have a slight back to it. Either way, mules and clogs have come roaring back the past few years. This is nothing new though. Historically, the ancient Romans rocked the mules, which means they have always been at the cutting edge of style and sophistication. More recently in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, it seemed like every brand was dropping at least one or two mules. Here’s a look back at the top 10 mules that changed the game.
10. Kappa Longbeach Sandal
Italian sportswear brand Kappa, famous for their “Omini” logo of a man and woman sitting down leaning up against each other, has always been known for their fashionable clothing and sneaker styles. In 2000, they dropped the Longbeach mule sandal, which, as the name suggests, was perfect for rocking at the beach after an invigorating surf. It would definitely be cool to see Kappa revive this model or something similar.
9. ASICS Tiger Chic LE
Running sneaker brand ASICS got in on the mule momentum by dropping the Tiger Chic LE. Inspired by the classic Onitsuka Tiger line, this mule was a great option for those loyal to the history and heritage of the Japanese brand. ASICS also made a modern mule called, appropriately, the Modern Mule.
8. Phat Farm Ave
Who remembers Phat Farm? Created in 1992 by hip hop legend Russell Simmons, Phat Farm became incredibly popular by the late ‘90s and early 2000s. They even made their own mule, called the Phat Farm Ave. It’s hard to tell which direction this mule was going in; was it like a dressy boot? Or a sneaker? Whatever it was, it was out there. A little pricey too ($79.99).
7. Nike Air Osaka
Tennis star Naomi Osaka was only 2 years old when the Nike Air Osaka dropped in 2000, so it definitely wasn’t named after her. She could definitely rock a retro version of them today, though. With soft, supple full-grain leather or a durable suede upper, the Osaka had a full-length Phylon midsole with an Air-Sole unit in the heel. They were perfect for slipping on after a tough soccer or tennis match.
6. Saucony Jazz Slide
Running sneaker brand Saucony has made some classic sneakers over the years, and arguably one of their best is the Jazz Original. But did you know: they made a mule version too called the Jazz Slide? If you were wearing baggy jeans with these mules, no one would be able to tell the difference between them and the Originals. These mules were basically complete replicas of their famous counterparts, sans the heel support. These definitely need to come back.
5. Puma Frankenclog
This mule gets bonus points for the name alone. Channeling the classic Puma GV and California vibes, the Frankenclog was a mashup of cool classic sneakers that were turned into a mule. Featuring the patented Puma logo on the side and a suede upper, the Frankenclogs were super dope and definitely deserve to make a comeback.
4. Nike Cortez Mule
The Nike Cortez, one of Nike’s oldest and most beloved running sneakers, was enjoying a renaissance in the early ‘00s. It was one of those retro sneakers that was easy to add to your collection because of its value and classic look. It only made sense for Nike to take advantage of this popularity by incorporating a mule silhouette as well. This particular Cortez featured a perforated Swoosh and was definitely one of the cozier mule options.
3. Merrell Jungle Slide
Attention all dads and wannabe dads: if you wanted to perfect the low-maintenance dad-vibe look, the Merrell Jungle Slide was for you. Known for decades as a go-to for hiking shoes and slide-on mocs, the Jungle Slide took it to the next level of comfort and utility by getting rid of that annoying heel support. The Jungle Slide is still available today, so it’s good to see Merrell understands their market.
2. adidas Superstar Clog
We should all be familiar with the Superstar, aka the “Shell Toe.” The Superstar is one of the most popular adidas sneakers of all time, and has been for decades. But, did you know adidas made a mule version as well? These pairs dropped in 2000, and obviously had a lot of similarities to the classic Superstar version, except for the lack of a heel and laces. adidas has been smart enough to bring back this clog version, and it is still available today.
1. Birkenstock Boston
One of the most popular mules of all time is the Birkenstock Boston. Back in the mid ‘90s, the Birkenstock Arizona and Milano were also super popular, but the Boston gave your foot that extra coverage in case you didn’t want your toes exposed. Featuring an orthopedically-correct footbed which got more comfortable with every wear, the Boston also had soft premium leather and was able to be re-soled if necessary.
Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories or read more of his work here.