A Brief Guide to Loafer Shoes
The Loafer is a classic, comfortable, less formal shoe with many different styles and ways of wearing them. In this guide I will point out the differences, and how you can get the best out of your wardrobe with these versatile shoes.
The Loafer is a classic slip-on shoe (no laces) usually made in leather, and usually worn casually. Styled on a traditional moccasin, the Loafer has grown in popularity since its emergence at the turn of the century. The loafer can trace its ancestry back further to Norweigan fishing shoes that became the original ‘Weejun Loafers’ in the 1930’s, a term still used today. It was Gucci, with his iconic 60’s design with its steel bar across the front that has shaped the way generally we see Loafers today. I say generally, but there are in fact many different styles of loafer, each with its own unique benefits. It is this versatility that enables loafers to have exceptions to almost every rule since they can be worn by men, women and children alike. You can find them in leather, suede or synthetic material and any colour you can think of.
Perfect in its own right, the classic leather loafer is just at home when worn with denim jeans and a t-shirt, or dressed up with a shirt and chinos. Traditionally low heeled and a moccasin slipper design.
Top tip: Go for browns and rich ox bloods.
Q: SOCKS OR NO SOCKS?
A: That is like asking Pocket square or no pocket square, buttonierre or no buttonierre, it all depends on personal taste and what you feel comfortable wearing. No socks is a trendy look from recent years, but while it’s still summer, why not? Just make sure you wear socks to the office. While we are on the subject of what’s appropriate for the office, this is one time the classic rule of black loafers with suits and browns/burgandies for casual.
Penny loafers have a wide strap across the top of the saddle (top of the shoe). In the center is a slot just wide enough to insert a penny or dime. Legend has it this tradition started by mothers who wanted to ensure their sons always had change to call home. Another take on the penny theory is once you were dating someone, your wore a penny to say you were ‘off limits’. What ever the truth behind the origins, putting a penny in your loafers is making a resurgence in a new generation of style conscious gentlemen.
Top tip: Penny loafers are the most versatile of all the loafers and can be made to work in almost any situation. If you are looking for your first pair of Loafers, you won’t go wrong with a great pair of penny loafers.
Q: PENNY OR NO PENNY?
A: Forget any historical reasons for putting a penny in your penny loafer, they are best consigned to the history books. Instead, if you want to make a statement, and you have the confidence to carry it off, then absolutely you should go ahead. When I talk to people about penny loafers I find they fall into two camps. Those who were there in the 60’s and remember Penny loafers first time round and would not wear a penny, and much younger style savvy gents who embrace details if they fit the look. Be bold and go for it.
The tassel loafer seems to have a roller coaster ride with men’s style. Sometimes the height of cool, and the next year they disappear without a trace. To me, the tassel loafer is synonymous with the classic mod look, and when mod influences are in vogue the tassel loafer will be cool. The key to finding a good tassel loafer is to go for the very best you can afford. Sounds obvious right? But low to mid price tassel loafers just can’t cut it. Go for a premium brand and wear them with pride. They have a continental style that the Italians do very well, so can you.
Q: CASUAL OR FORMAL?
A: I see many men wearing their tassel loafers to work with a lounge suit. It doesn’t work for me, having a very 80’s feel to it. That’s not to say you can’t dress them up because you can. Wear them with a pair of jeans and a sports jacket for a relaxed but upmarket look.
Unlike the barrel detail that can apply to the styles above, the dress loafer is best described as an Oxford without laces. A beautiful shoe that is elegant in its simple design. If you want an all round versatile shoe, but one that is more formal than the penny loafer, you cannot do better than a dress loafer. These are shoes that go effortlessly with both suits and jeans. Perfect for smart nights out when you want to dress up, but without the formality of a lace up.
Q: FORMAL OR CASUAL?
A: Who cares? This classic will do whatever you ask of it.
About the Author
Steve Mitchell is a style blogger and image consultant who specializes in style and etiquette for the modern gentleman. This article was previously posted at Mr. Mitchell’s blog site – The Mitchelli.