Loafers are smarter than your average slip on. Learn more about these sophisticated shoes with our men’s loafers guide.
Horse bit or tassels? Native American or Norwegian fisherman? Should you go sockless? Loafers have a fascinating history. Each style has its own identity and story to tell. Which of the following 7 loafers best suits your personality? Read our complete guide to find out how and when to wear your loafers.
The Wildsmith Loafer
Your loafers spring from a dual heritage. On this side of the channel, in 1926, King George VI commissioned Raymond Wildsmith to come up with a comfortable country house shoe. We can only guess at what inspired Wildsmith, but we can’t argue with the guys at Real Men Real Style who say: “If the slipper is the father, the moccasin is the mother of the loafer.”
The result was the imaginatively named 582, a slip-on with a low, topline, saddle instead of laces, and a distinctive seam stitched around the apron of the shoe. A name change saw the shoe take off; the Wildsmith is your most traditional loafer. The shoe of Kings – well – a king. They look great in the office, worn with trousers with just a slight break for a clean line.
The Aurland Loafer
From Kings of England to kings of the sea, the Norwegian riff on the popular Wildsmith takes its cue from the traditional footwear of of hard-as-nails Scandinavian fishermen. Nils Gregoriusson was the designer who, in 1930, came up with the Aurland Moccasin.
Of similar construction to the Wildsmith, the Aurland features raised stitching on the Apron. Another traditional loafer, this one is your go-to shoe for casual wear. Think golf club dinners and yacht club functions.
It was a feature in Esquire which, in 1933, inspired Spaulding Leather Co., to come up with their own version of the Aurland. They called it the Aurland Loafer – a name and a legend were born.
The Penny Loafer
As with popular music, what’s big here in Blighty often makes it even bigger in America. The loafer is no different. In 1936, the shoe became a hit with young people Stateside. Prep school students in particular, loved a slightly larger cut-out detail in the saddle because they could store their pennies in them in case they needed to make phone call.
Who knows why the Yanks couldn’t keep their pennies in their pockets like everyone else. But the classic American loafer is now, and for ever shall be, the Penny Loafer – it’s a casual take on the loafer, and even more laid back when you go for brown suede. Young people sometimes wear them sans-socks. For the sake of your dignity, we advise you to avoid the barefoot look.
The Kiltie Loafer
An embellishment that takes its inspiration from north of the border, “Kilties” draw on the detailing on the footwear of gamekeepers from the Scottish Highlands – ghillie brogues. Featuring a fringed leather flap sewn over the vamp of the shoe and secured with a bow or tassels, Kilties first became popular in the 1950s and still look great today.
Loafers are a summer shoe. Wear your Kilties to barbecues, garden parties and meals out. They look particularly good with a pair of quality cotton chinos, linens or even tailored shorts, if you feel like being daring.
The Gucci Loafer
Gucci spent his formative years working in a lift at the Savoy which meant the bellboy-turned-fashion-designer had plenty of opportunity to study what well-heeled gents wore on their feet. He took the loafer to heart and made it his own by adding the iconic metal “horsebit”.
Gucci’s black loafers took the fashion world by storm in 1953 and still look fresh over sixty years later. As the guys at Fashion Beans say: “The horsebit’s central appeal then, as now, is its refinement.” A versatile shoe, that little bit of formal shine makes them ideal smart office attire, or perfect for evening soirees with friends, summer weddings and more.
The Belgian Loafer
What have the Belgians brought us apart from the best beer in the world, chocolates, Brussels sprouts and EU institutions? Well, in 1954, while Elvis was busy recording his first 10 minute demo in a studio in Nashville, the Belgians were busy making a small but valuable footnote to fashion history – adding a bow to a pair of loafers.
It’s a good look. Wear your Belgians when you want something sturdier than deck shoes, but don’t want to be constricted by lace-ups.
The Tassled Loafer
From a monarch to a prince of the silver screen – the year was 1957 and the tassled loafers were a bespoke order from Paul Lukas, star of film favourites like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Tender is the Night (1962). The final act in the loafer’s development, it remains a stylish twist on the traditional shoe.
Wear your tassels for casual evenings at the pub, easy-going meals out with friends or trips to the theatre. And don’t forget the venue for which your tassels were designed – the cinema.
How do you wear your loafers? Check out the infographic below for a quick recap on this stylish choice of footwear:
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