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What Are Loafers?-Your Ultimate Guide


What Are Loafers?-Your Ultimate Guide

So let’s say you’re a proper gentleman, and already have a pair of Oxfords and Derbies. 

You’re pretty much covered for your formal and casual looks, right? So what comes next? We would say the next step is to get a pair of Loafers.

Loafers are a very nice bridge between formal and casual, and they are the staple of Americana style.

Still, it is important to know these shoes are definitely more on the casual side. In that case, they are a match made in heaven for your business casual looks.

They are convenient and comfortable as they slip on and off. Finally, they are a timeless shoe. You will always be in fashion when wearing Loafers. 

Let’s get into more detail by looking at some of the characteristics of the Loafer, the history about these shoes and how can you style your looks by using this type of footwear.

Anatomy of a Loafer

Loafers are slip-on shoes, meaning they don’t have any lacing system like the Oxfords or Derbies. Still, Loafers have a wide variety of constructions, and it is hard to put them into a single category.

Sometimes they feature a seam on top of the vamp (apron). This can be part of the construction of the shoe or just an aesthetic detail.

Often they come with a saddle, which is an ornament like a strap of leather, or a metallic piece like a horsebit.

To check all the essential features of a Loafer, look at the following picture:

Anatomy of a loafer

As you can see, the slip-on feature of the Loafer makes it a very comfortable, sleek shoe.

Depending on the materials and embellishments on the Loafers (saddles, tassels, etc.), they can either be more formal or more casual.

So remember this tip when wearing Loafers, (or any type of shoe for that matter): The cleaner the shape of a shoe is, the more formal it is.

Another important thing: If you like sockless looks with loafers, we would recommend wearing no-show socks.

Also, each type of Loafer has a very unique backstory, so let’s learn a bit about the history of this quintessential shoe.

A Little Bit of History

There are two main stories about the aspect of Loafers. The first one talks about an English origin. It was created by the shoemaking house Wildsmith in London.

In 1926, these shoemakers designed Loafers for King George IV, as he wanted an indoor shoe which was comfortable and easy to put. Later on, the Loafer also became an outdoor shoe, and many businessmen started to wear it.

For the second story, we have to go to Norway and visit the town of Aurland. It is there where the famous shoemaker Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger lived.

In the late 19th Century, Tveranger had the opportunity to visit America, where he saw the design of the mocassins made by the Iroquois tribe.

When returning to Norway, he designed a new shoe, based on the mocassin and also on other shoes already made in Norway.

This is what we know as the Norwegian Loafer. By the 1930s, Tveranger was already exporting these shoes to America.

Once the Loafers arrived to America, its design evolved into many different directions. Also, many of these new designs transformed the more casual Loafer into a dressier shoe.

Let’s check out some of the most popular types of loafers and how they came to be.

Your Ultimate Guide to Loafers

Penny Loafers

Penny Loafers

The Penny Loafers made their appearance in the 1930s in America and were designed by the G.H. Bass shoe company. These Loafers feature a saddle with a cut-out piece in the shape of a diamond.

By the 1950s they were really popular amongst the Ivy League students who coined the term.

The legend goes students were trying to make a fashion statement by putting a penny in the cut-out piece of the saddle, hence the name Penny Loafer.

Another story even says these pennies actually had a function. At the time an emergency call costed two cents, so students were always ready to make a call by having their coins in their Loafers.

This Loafer is still very popular nowadays. The Duke of Windsor used to wear these kinds of Loafers with suits, which a very sharp move.

Since they are minimalist and simple, the Penny Loafers are very versatile and they look good with suits, slacks, chinos, and jeans.

Tassel Loafers

Tassel Loafers

The Tassel Loafers are a Loafer with tassel ornaments sewn on the vamp of the shoe.

The Tassel Loafers is another variety which emerged in the 1950s. It was also very popular among the universities of the East Coast and it became a standard shoe for businessmen and lawyers.

Tassel Loafers were considered for some time to be an old man’s shoe, but they have now resurfaced as a style for men of any age.

This type of Loafer is really good with suits, and also with a business casual look, either with slacks or jeans. They are also fun to wear during the summer time with no-show socks and lightweight trousers.

Horsebit Loafers

Also known as the Gucci Loafer (we’ll tell you right away why), this shoe displays a metallic piece across the vamp, which reminds us of a horse snaffle, and hence the name Horsebit Loafers.

It was made popular by the Gucci fashion house in 1953, although these kinds of shoes already existed in Florence.

That’s why it is also known as the Gucci Loafer. Since then, it became a pretty famous shoe in America. 

This type of Loafer has evolved into different versions and you can find it in a lot of materials and colors. Still, they remain one of the most formal Loafers there are.

For suits, you can go for Horsebit Loafers in black. For slacks and jeans, you can go for these Loafers in other colors or materials.

Beefroll Loafers

Beefroll Loafer

This Loafer is a variety of the Penny Loafer and it takes its name from the stitching on each side of the vamp which looks like, yes, beef rolls!

Some Beefrolls will be more subtle than others, but we can consider it a more casual version of the Penny Loafer.

They look pretty sharp with a pair of jeans or slim-cut pants, perfect for a business casual look.

Other Types of Loafers

Loafers are shoes which have evolved in many different directions, and designers have had a lot of fun adding different types of ornaments to them.

We can find, for instance, the Belgian Loafer, which is a cousin of the Tassel Loafer. It features a subtle leather bow in the front.

There are also Kiltie Loafers, which are a throwback. They feature an extra piece of leather in the shape of a fence which lies over the tongue of the shoe. Because of the adornments, these Loafers are more on the casual side.

Conclusion

Great personalities like the Duke of Windsor and JFK have featured the Loafers and have turned them into a pair of classic shoes every man must own.

Whether you are going to the office in your business casual look, going for a date or having a laid-back evening, Loafers will be the perfect shoes for these situations. They are not only comfortable but very versatile.

Just remember they are more on the casual side, but you can wear Penny or Tassel Loafers with suits. Also, don’t forget the socks even if they are the invisible ones.

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