What is a Loafer? In this series i will guide you through the different types of loafers available and history behind it. I must admit i am a tad bias towards this article as loafers are one of my favourite style of footwear.
A loafer basically has no laces, it functions as a slip -on shoe.
A loafer is low in its cut and that exposed your ankles, thus the shoe does not wrap snugly around it.
The heels on a loafer is relatively low profile.
The upper is separated from the sole of the shoe. The upper construction is like a moccasin-like, but yet there is some difference in loafers and moccasin footwear in which we will talk about in the latter part.
- All loafers have a separate sole; this is not the case for the majority of moccasins.
- Similarly, loafers have a defined heel, while moccasins do not.
- Unlike moccasins, loafers lack embroidery, beading or other ornamentation on the uppers.
Both footwear uses different last and both of these style of footwear originated in very different parts of the world. Loafers gain popularity in England and traditional moccasin were widely used in native Americana tribes.
In 1936 (some sources put the date as 1934), the G.H. Bass shoe company introduced its version of the loafer, and the company is known for it to this day. Their design included a distinctive strip of leather (the saddle) of the shoe with a diamond-shaped cutout. Bass gave their loafers the name “Weejuns,” to sound like Norwegians – a nod to the Norwegian roots of the shoe, and to differentiate them from the Spaulding loafer. Weejuns became immensely popular in America, especially among the Prep School students in the 1950s, who coined the term “penny loafer.” Legend has it that, wishing to make a fashion statement, they took to inserting a penny into the diamond shaped cutout of their Weejuns. An alternate theory is that, in the 1930s, two pennies were sufficient to make an emergency telephone call.
Penny loafer were immensely popular in 1920s during the whole Ivy League era and these were seen throughout America, thus the evolution of the loafer was inevitable. Tassel loafers came onto the scene in 1950 when Alden shoe makers decided to make a decorative pattern with a unique lacing system that still kept the shoes as a slip on. The birth of the tassel loafer was a huge success and was favoured by many businessman and upper class New Yorkers.
So when things were heating up in America with loafers being accepting as a formal footwear. It was a different story in Europe when traditional Oxfords and Derby were still the benchmark for formality, loafers were still deemed to be too casual to be paired with a suit. Commonly known as the "Gucci Loafer" , the bit loafer has come a long way of creeping its way into the upper society's acceptance all thanks to its creator an Italian designer named Guccio Gucci. In 1968 when the Italian designer Gucci introduced a loafer with a golden brass strap in the shape of a horse’s snaffle bit across the front–in keeping with the company’s saddle-making heritage. This became an instant hit and was further accepted to everyman wardrobe choice when they made the shoes in black Italian leather as well. In 1969, Gucci sold 84,000 pairs of loafers just in their U.S. stores. In keeping with the continued journey of the loafer, it crossed the pond to America, where it was adopted by 1970s businessmen and almost became a uniform on Wall Street.
*Shoes featured on the top of this page are Jalan Sriwijaya 98687 horse bit loafer
Many men and women confuse slip-on shoes with loafers. You can slip on the shoe just like a loafer, but it lacks the moccasin seam on the uppers and looks more like a regular oxford or brogue. The slip-on is favored by men who wear business suits when they fly because you can easily pass security and unlike a loafer, it is appropriate with a pinstripe business suit.
As mentioned previously, loafers are very versatile and will go well with your everyday wardrobe styling, best styled with chinos, pants, corduroy and slacks. With that being said, it doesn't have any place in a black tie event or to wear it with your traditional tux. Like most things in life everything has its time and place.
Hopefully this helps you in making your next choice of loafers easier and meanwhile the world in trying times as we fight a solution to beat Covid 19, always find the right footwear to bring you further in your journey in life.