Loafers are low, lace-less shoes. The style most commonly seen, known as a Loafer or slippers in American culture, has a moccasin construction. First appearing in the1930s from Norway, they started as casual shoes, but have increased in popularity to the point of being worn in America with city lounge suits. They are worn in many situations in a wide variety of designs and colors, often featuring tassels on the front, or decorations to enhance the shoes appearance.
The dress loafer is an earlier type of slip-on that is made with side gussets. Made in the same shape as lace-up Oxford shoes, without the laces, elasticated inserts on the side allow the shoe to be easily removed, but remain snug when worn. This type of loafer is the most popular in Britain.
The Bespoke Shoe Company based in London that was established in the 1800s developed a penny loafer as a country house shoe for the landed gentry and the royal family. The ‘Wildsmith Loafer’ made by Matthew Wildsmith & Co of Duke Street, was designed for King George VI as a casual house shoe. The shoe was marketed and sold by other London shoe companies and called ‘the Harrow’. The Norwegians were producing leisure slippers of the moccasin style in the 1930s and began exporting them to the rest of Europe, where they were also bought by visiting Americans, and championed by the American Esquire magazine. Some photographs included with the feature were of Norwegian farmers in a cattle loafing area. Loafers which is generally the term for slip-on shoes remains in use in America. In 1934, G.H. Bass, a boot maker in Wilton, Maine, started making loafers under the name Weejuns. The distinctive addition was a strip of leather across the saddle with a diamond cut-out. Initially only worn in the summer at home, the shoe grew in popularity in America to become a significant part of a mans casual shoe wardrobe. In the 1950s, American school students, wanting to make a fashion statement, inserted a penny into the diamond-shaped slit on their Weejuns. That is how the name “penny loafer” came about this style of slip-on and has since stuck. The practice continues, especially amongst those who remain committed to a classic and refined but still scholarly appearance, such as lawyers and other businessmen who dress up for their profession.
Another variation on the basic style is the tassel loafer, which emerged in the 1950s. Again, though casual, their acceptance among the American east coast culture has led to them being worn there with suits, where they gained an association with business and legal classes.
In 1966, Italian designer Gucci added a metal strap across the front in the shape of a horse’s snaffle bit. These Gucci loafers (now a general term referring to shoes of this style by any manufacturer) also spread over the Atlantic and were worn by 1970s business men, becoming almost a Wall Street uniform, reaching widespread use by the 1980s.
At the start of the XXI century a revival of penny loafers in a more rugged version closer to the original went back to full popularity force in College campuses across America and especially in the mild winter weather of California and the West Coast.
Typical men's loafer in the 1930's
Grace Kelly wearing loafers in the1930's
Fred Astaire wearing loafers in the 1950's
Women wearing loafers in the 1950's
Michael Jackson wearing loafers in the 1980's
Woman wearing loafers in the 1980's
In America and some European countries, such as Italy, the loafer is a casual and informal shoe worn for work and leisure, though lace-ups are still preferred for more formal situations. Loafers are preferred in brown over black Women have worn loafers with socks or stockings, but as bare legs with skirts have become more acceptable for women, their loafers have become fashionable in casual circumstances.
Though originally men’s shoes, some styles of loafers, such as casual tassel loafers, are also worn by women.
On college campuses, loafers are worn casually. Loafers are comfortable shoes and can be worn “fashionably” by both men and women, with jeans, shorts, pants, and dresses. They come in a variety of colors, styles, and brands. Loafers are very comfortable and do not harm the feet. What is your take?
Now to wrap this up, here is a video on a man that loved his loafers. This man helped make the loafer a household name.
He needs no introduction.