All you need to know about Loafers

You’ve probably seen them on the street, usually hidden beneath a bare ankle and a well-cuffed pair of chinos. Yes, they are the humble loafers, the most comfortable and versatile smart-casual men’s shoe on the market.

Loafers have recently experienced a resurgence, arguably surpassing their laced-up cousins, the Oxford and the Derby. This is due in part to the loafer’s comfort as a slip-on shoe, but it’s also due to the loafer’s ability to look good in almost any situation. Whatever you want to wear: jeans, chinos, suit pants, cotton shorts, etc.

Let’s dive into the intricacies of this footwear style in this article!

What exactly are Loafers?

The traditional loafer has a few distinguishing features. First and foremost, no laces. Loafers are slip-on shoes that are designed to be worn on and off your feet, making them extremely comfortable.

Loafers have a low rise as well. They have a low-profile heel and a leather upper, and they should be worn without socks (or, ideally, with invisible ankle socks). There are penny loafers, which have a saddle across the vamp, as well as tassel loafers, horsebit loafers, and kiltie loafers. They all have a distinct appearance, but they are all members of the loafer family.

Here are a few key characteristics to remember:

1.There are no laces.

Finally, a loafer has no laces, making it a slip-on shoe.

2. Exposed Ankles

A loafer is a “low shoe,” which means the ankle is exposed and the shoe does not wrap tightly around it.

3. Little Heels

Loafers are distinguished by their low-profile heels.

4. Decoration
Typically, loafers will have some sort of decoration across the vamp, such as a saddle, tassel, or horse bit.

Traveling through time: History

There are several origin stories for men’s loafers. But all in all it can be attributed to one creator for the design of the modern loafers.

In the early twentieth century, British designers were mass-producing loafer-style shoes for the English gentry. On the other side of the Atlantic, Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger, a Norwegian shoemaker, combined traditional Native American moccasins with Norwegian fishing shoes to create the first official penny loafer, which quickly became popular among American college students (who use to keep pennies in the vamp, hence the name).

Loafers became a men’s shoe staple over the next 100 years. They really broke through into the cultural mainstream around ten years ago.

The various types:

Unlike other types of footwear, loafer shoes have multiple origin stories. Each type has a distinct origin story.

Overall, there are eight different types of loafers for men to choose from:

1. Penny

The penny loafer is a comfortable, traditional, and classic shoe that combines simple elegance with long-lasting ease.

This fashionable slip-on shoe originated in the 1930s but did not gain popularity until the 1950s. Some claim that the name comes from children inserting pennies into the slot. Others say it’s just an urban legend.

The penny loafer is frequently available in dark colours such as espresso, burgundy, black, and brown, and it remains a versatile, adaptable, and downright handsome shoe.

Formality: Semi-Formal / Casual

Style: A horizontal strap runs across the top of the loafer.

Yes, for everyday use. Autumn, Spring, and Summer

2. Horsebit

The horsebit loafer is distinguished by a golden metal strap across the top shaped like a horse’s snaffle.

Gucci popularised the style by changing the colour from brown to black and tinkering with the lining. Gucci’s tampering resulted in a surge in popularity. The Gucci men’s loafers quickly became a favourite among American power brokers. Nowadays, the horsebit loafer exudes a slightly retro but still sophisticated vibe. 

Formality:

Buckle across the top of the loafer for a casual/semi-formal look.

Yes, for everyday use. Spring and Summer are the seasons.

3. The Tassel

There are rumours about the origins of the tassel loafer.

Most people believe the shoe was created when an actor named Paul Lukas asked a New York shoemaker to make something similar to a pair of Oxfords with tassels. After being disappointed with the outcome, Lukas took his request to the Alden Shoe Company, who combined the tassel with a slip-on loafer.

Voila!

The tassel loafer was created. Aside from the historical accuracy, there’s no denying that the shoe was and continues to be a huge success. This stylish staple, available in suede or leather, exudes a European sensibility and delivers classic sartorial flair.

Formality: Tassel affixed to the top of the loafer in a casual/semi-formal style.

Yes, for everyday use. Autumn and Summer are the seasons.

4. Kiltie

What was once considered an old man shoe has now become a sartorial necessity for every stylish man’s wardrobe.Often considered the odd one out by casual fans, the kiltie or kilt loafer is the loafer to have for the loafer connoisseur.

Just because your grandfather wore them doesn’t mean they’re anything less than the perfect loafer. The tassels are a useful addition that protects the instep and keeps the laces from snagging. For the fall, pair the kilties with some fitted trousers or suit pants and a nice coat.

Formality: Casual/ Semi-Formal Style: Kilt style with a loafer on top.

Yes, for everyday use. Autumn is the season

5. Driving Loafers

The defining pebbled outsole of the driving loafer adds a level of functional grip.

With its casual comfort and summer style, this loafer is a welcome addition to any man’s wardrobe, racecar driver or not. If you’re looking for a pair of loafers to keep by the front door for when you need to go shopping, these are the ones to get.

The driving shoe is equally at home lounging on the beach as it is providing the extra traction you require while cruising through the countryside in your Porsche.

Formality: Casual Style: Pebbled rubber outsole, top laces.

Yes, for everyday use. Spring and Summer are the seasons.

6. Slipper

The slipper is the all-purpose loafer that most closely resembles the footwear’s true origins.

With a smooth upper devoid of stitching and kilted flamboyance, this loafer forgets all the jazz and gets down to business. Depending on the material, you can wear these with a suit or a pair of shorts.

Avoid leather in favour of a lighter-colored suede material for a more casual look. If you intend to wear these with a suit, stick to black and choose either leather or patent material for added style.

Formality: informal/formal (depending on material)

Style: No top finishings, one-piece fabric with minimal stitching.

No, not for everyday use. Autumn is the season

7. Boat

It wasn’t until Prada put these on the runway that anyone really started wearing them.

First and foremost, if you’re over 30, skip the boat shoe entirely. If you’ve just graduated from high school, these might catch your eye, and if you can’t get them out of your head, just wear them with linen.

Wear no socks and stick to classics like RM Williams, Sperrys, or Timberlands.

Formality:

Rubber outsole, laces on top, casual style.

Yes, for everyday use. Spring and Summer are the seasons.

8. Espadrille

The espadrille is at the bottom of the styling barrel. This men’s loafer is a rope-soled flat that is ideal for casual wear.

There is a very short list of shoes that stylish men should not wear, and the espadrille teeters on the line between acceptable and awkward. If you really want to try these on, you should get a pair from Saint Laurent (as pictured) or an equivalent designer brand.

Add khaki shorts and a plain-colored button-up and you’re ready for a day on the water.

Formality:

Woven/rope midsole with rubber outsole in a casual style.

No, not for everyday use. Spring and Summer are the seasons.

How to Wear Loafers

Before we get into the eight different types of loafers for men, you should learn how to wear them.

Suede and leather are popular materials for loafers. They’re usually available in a variety of darker colours that will go with a variety of outfits and styles. Indeed, the guy to your left may be dressed in penny loafers with shorts and a t-shirt, while the guy to your right may be dressed in tassel loafers with a linen suit.

That being said, here are some general guidelines for wearing loafers:

  • Your best bet is smart casual.
  • Men’s loafers and the smart casual dress code were practically designed to go together.
  • Both have a simple sense of style and class.
  • Just remember that smart casual is usually far more “smart” than it is “casual”.
  • Penny loafers are the most versatile loafer, and they go with almost any outfit (you could even pair penny loafers with jeans).
  • Think fitted trousers with a blazer and crisp button-downs for tassel and Gucci loafers.
  • Loafers and a black tie
  • Do not combine.
  • If you’re going to wear loafers with a suit, make it a casual one rather than a three-piece.
  • We’re talking about seasonal pieces like a tailored linen suit or a cotton blazer with tailored trousers.
  • Aim for darker colours, simple details, and high-quality fabrics in both the loafers and the suit.
  • Shorts and loafers can be combined.
  • A nice pair of khaki shorts, no socks, and a nice pair of loafers make for a great summer outfit.
  • With a crisp shirt, killer shades, and a clean watch, you’re ready to roll in style.
  • Keep it simple.
  • When shopping for men’s loafers, stick to materials like suede and colours like brown and black.
  • Make sure to take good care of those suede loafers so they don’t wear out.

Socks and loafers

The debate over whether to wear loafers with socks or loafers without socks is theoretically still ongoing, but there’s never been a better time to make your own decision.

In other words, wearing loafers without socks is very fashionable right now, whereas wearing loafers with socks has never really gone out of style. What matters is that you keep a tight, tailored fit and keep in mind that loafers have a slightly formal edge.

If you decide to wear socks, make sure the patterns or colours complement your outfit. Loafer socks for men have become their own sock genre, so look into them if socks are your thing.

The main takeaway here is that loafers may be versatile enough to wear with casual clothing, but they still represent elevated sartorial awareness. Socks or no socks, you should consider your loafers to be part of an overall ensemble that begins with the head and ends with the footwear.

It’s never about how you wear your loafers; it’s about your entire outfit.

What Loafers Should You Purchase?

Bottom Line, every man should own one pair of loafers. That being said, no one style is objectively more important than another. It should be about which loafer style you believe you’ll wear the most and which one you prefer over the others. Whatever it be, invest in a pair of loafers before spring season to rock your spring and summer outfits.

Ridhiman Das
Ridhiman Das
Articles: 120
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