Loafers are a perennial menswear classic. From the slick Gucci loafer to a beat up vintage pair, there is a loafer for every type of gentleman. It is a style so recognisable that it is hard to imagine a wold where they did exist.They are a style that have traversed class boundaries – and even gender boundaries, now women are just as likely to be seen in this menswear classic. Loafers are shoes to be worn – as practical as they are stylish.
But as with any fashion great, the story of where they emerged from is almost as interesting as the item itself. Although the loafer is now seen as either an Italian staple or an essential part of the Ivy League uniform, the loafer actually originated from the rather unlikely birthplace of Norway.The original loafer was based more on the moccasin. It was more rustic than the modern loafer and was worn by Norwegians primarily as a day-to-day work shoe. It was a hardy shoe – but there was something attractive about it. Catching the eye of Esquire magazine, the loafer was championed as the footwear of the 1930s.
In 1934, bootmaker G.H. Bass created the ‘Weejun’ (to sound like Norwegian) and the modern loafer was invented. Known alternatively as the penny loafer, this was a shoe that appealed to the middle and upper classes in America. It also took off abroad – the tassel loafer now synonymous with the Oxbridge elite. Adding his own American twist to the Norwegian style, Bass added a strip of leather over the front of the moccasin-style shoe to create the shoe we know today. It was because of this strip that they became known as the ‘penny’ loafer, men storing a penny, or cent, behind the strip of leather for making emergency phone calls.
Since then, the loafer has expanded in several directions. Available with tassels, with chunky soles (a la Burberry) or with a metal horse’s bit (Gucci), loafers have become a colourful and enduring menswear staple. Whether you wear them with or without socks, with shorts in summer or a classic Church’s pair with a suit, loafers are a truly versatile style. There is also something very personal about the loafer. Some men will be drawn to vintage styles, in rich, worn in brown leathers, whilst others will see patent leather as the height of style. With so many variations on the market, it makes it easy to choose a pair that suits your own personal style – and at TSK, that is the most important thing.