The complete list of loafer styles
Loafers are a part of the menswear lexicon. With the spring season in full swing, I thought it might be beneficial to look over a list of one the most intriguing styles of men’s footwear over the last decade. Based on classic design elements, each different type of loafers on this list has held its rightful place in history.
Established in 1876 by George Henry Bass of Wilton, Maine, The penny loafer, as it’s called, is an iconic piece of footwear that encapsulates the American ‘prep’ style. The signature details associated with this historic design: a rounded moc toe, “beef roll” bindings on the sides of the shoe and the lip-shaped front slit which was known as a place to store pennies. For as long as this pair of loafers have been produced, it remains a footwear staple in the wardrobe of the classic American man. Worn by the likes of style icon James Dean, Paul Newman and John F. Kennedy, the penny loafer is the perfect balance of smart and casual footwear.
Created in 1953 by designer Gucci, the horse bit loafer was adapted after the success of similar North American style loafers. While observing the daily lives of the English aristocracy, Gucci saw how important horses, racing and polo was to this affluent class. When he launched his leather goods business, he made sure to incorporate this equestrian iconography into the brand. Gucci’s iconic horse bit loafer quickly established itself as quintessential, Italian elegance. Although their comfort and practicality challenged traditional footwear notions, these loafers quickly found favor with the likes of businessmen during the 1970’s who were looking to incorporate that a louche, easy-going and sporty sexiness into their wardrobes. Today the horse bit loafer is synonymous with the Gucci brand and has had a lasting impression on classic man’s wardrobe.
Alden, the famous Massachusetts-based shoemaker, claims to have produced the original tassel loafer in the early 1950’s. When Brooks Brothers introduced the style into their stores a few years later, its status as a prep-inspired, country clubby shoe was cemented into the American wardrobe. Distinct by its tassels or leather laces hanging from the vamp, Tassel loafers are essentially a laceless shoes with decorative ornamentation. Often worn by businessmen or lawyers today, historically the tassel loafer was seen as an older man’s choice of footwear. With the popularity of movies like Wall Street, the tassel loafer has remained a popular choice for men and today, you can find them it in a variety of both formal and informal styles.
Kiltie or “kilty” refers to any shoe that has a fringe leather panel covering the vamp area of the shoe. Originally, on the feet of early Scottish golfers during 1497, the kiltie was simply a way to keep the laces free from the rain and mud of the British Isles. Over generations, the loafer style hasn’t undergone a huge change in looks, although some kiltie loafers come in a variety of styles. Some have laces, tassels, or even buckles adorned to them. Kilties typically have a reputation as a shoe for older men. While they certainly can be dressed up for more modern times, they’re a shoe that should only be worn once you’ve established a strong base in your footwear collection.
Created out of necessity for a comfortable shoe while driving, the driving moc has made a name for itself throughout the years as comfortable casual footwear. Since its inception in 1963, this casual loafer was seen as a solution to the demand of footwear that could endure the rigors of daily driving. Helping to extend the longevity of your dress shoes, the driving moc is typically made in a soft suede or deerskin covered with rubber pads or nibs to help traction. Its causal nature makes it a great choice for spring/summer attire, particularly chinos and linen.
Once considered a peasant shoe, today’s espadrilles are a staple of fashionable beach-goers worldwide. A simple shoe consisting of a one-piece canvas upper stitched to a coiled rope sole, the espadrille has become the new standard footwear for vacation. Easy to slip on and off, the espadrille‘s of today are now finished with a small layer of rubber to increase the durability.
Certainly a lot more flattering on your feet than the condemned thong sandal. At a reasonable price, the espadrille fills a space in your casual footwear collection as a go-to option for warm-weather travel.
Owned by famous fashion designer Henri Bendel, Belgian Shoes have been in business since 1956. A wardrobe staple to a multitude of famous faces like Andy Warhol and infamous financier, Bernie Madoff, the Belgian loafer is the gold standard for hand-made loafers.
Only produced in small collections of 5 different styles, their tradition and most popular version, called “Mr. Casual”, is a soft soled loafer, topped off with a chic leather bow. It comes in a variety of leathers and wools and is the perfect loafer for the guy looking for a bit of sophisticated elegance. What makes these loafers so special is their simplicity. They start with a hand-sewn insole, over a light filling — a felt like material that is similar to the one under piano keys. Each loafer is hand stitched by women in Belgium due to the delicate nature of the shoes. Each shoe is meticulously inspected and only allowed to be sold after careful construction. It is said that if you want the best, you buy Belgian loafers. Brian is a huge fan of them and swears by them religiously.
Made prominent by the likes of Prince Albert Consort in the late 1800s, slippers have long held a significant place in a man’s wardrobe throughout human history. From the feet of the Pope to those of American Hollywood actors, slippers were once thought of to only be seen inside the home. Today’s slippers are crafted in luxurious velvets and are decorative with elements, like grosgrain silk ribbons, or detailed with embroidered motifs on the vamp. The once comfortable, in-home footwear is now worn as a casual option or even proper as a formal footwear option with black tie. No matter the occasion, the slipper is a style that deserves the royal treatment, whichever way you choose to wear it.
Thanks for reading.
Steven D. Elliott
He Spoke Style