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The Lost Art of Mens Loafers

Do any of you wear loafers?

French White LoafersI’m not sure what happened, but I don’t notice many loafers on men these days. The first memory I have of loafers is seeing them worn by the men in my family – my dad, uncles, and grandfather. They proudly wore their different variations of loafers – penny, venetian, and bit. I always thought it was a cool, confident fashion statement.

Loafers seem to work well for casual and dress occasions including with nice slacks, khakis and even jeans. In fact, I remember always thinking it was cool seeing guys wearing a nice pair of brown or tan loafers with jeans and perhaps a dress shirt with a blazer.

It was the ultimate statement of casual cool in my eyes.

So what happened to loafers?

Let’s discuss…

Mens Loafers

Look around your office or around town. Do you notice men wearing loafers much?

It’s only what I’ve been seeing, but the trend seems to be drifting away from loafers and more toward lace-ups. Maybe it’s a trend driven by age. As we get older perhaps we get tired of lacing up shoes every day, multiple times a day. Insert men’s loafers.

Hopefully this article inspires a few younger guys to step out and consider the loafer as the next shoe purchase.

Loafer History and Overview

It looks like loafers first came to the US in the 1930s and 1940s. The Bass company started making casual loafers for men and women. In the 1950s teens started wearing them as a fashion statement.

From there things have evolved to the point where we have multiple loafer styles.

Penny Loafer

Here we have an example of a penny loafer…

Bass Men's Farley

You can see on the front there is a strap across the top of the foot. Within this strap is a diamond shape. Back in old days some would put actual pennies behind the strap under the open diamond slot to make a fashion statement.

The penny loafer is a classic and recognized look. For casual or dress casual they work well to accompany any outfit. And these days as many men seem to shy away from loafers there is reason to think you’ll stand out when you wearing penny loafers.

Venetian Loafer

The Venetian loafer goes bare on the top…

Rockport Cape Noble

This style loafer can appear more like the modern slip-on type shoe. There are actually quiet a few styles of slip-ons men and women wear these days. I’m not a huge fan of the slip-on version popular today. I do like the style that looks more like the penny loafer without the strap across the top.

Bit Loafer

An example of a bit loafer…

Calvin Klein Frolic

The style above could be classified as a bit loafer. A true bit loafer has a smaller, metallic appearing bit either with a strap or as the strap across the top. It is an option instead of the loafer without any strap or the penny loafer style strap. Depending on the shoe bit loafers can add a little extra appeal to the appearance of your loafers.

Loafers in Pop Culture

There are many examples of famous people and celebrities wearing loafers as part of their celebrity persona and in their everyday lives.

Michael JacksonOne example of loafers as a functional piece of a wardrobe is Michael Jackson.

MJ wore his loafers as part of a fashion statement and because he preferred them while perfecting his famous dance moves. The leather soles or perhaps dancing soles helped MJ glide across the floor wherever he performed. He also hiked his pants up to showcase the shoes and even contrasted them frequently with white socks or silver sequin socks.

MJ’s loafers have become iconic over the past half century.

Others known to occasionally done the loafer include Shia LaBeouf, Frank Sinatra, Michael Douglas, and many others.

Loafers Today

Today loafers come in a variety of styles. Most of the styling, though, is based on the classic three – penny, bit, and venetian. A trend in the modern look for the loafer includes a longer, sleeker toe. I don’t know if it’s European influenced, but the long skinny shoe can work for some men. It can look a bit odd on a guy with round features, but for the tall it can work well.

As far as pants go – pair your loafers accordingly. I like to wear them with jeans or khakis. I got with a straight leg cut at the bottom. I can’t remember where I read the advice, but boot cut jeans – popular today – are best left for boots. Don’t hide those handsome shoes under the bell of your pants.

For casual look for suede to make a good showing. Light colored loafers can work well especially if you want to wear them without socks for a day on the boat or out and about in the summer. They can go well with a linen shirt and light pants.

Loafer Golf Proposal

How about loafer golf shoes?

JFK GolfI can’t get over the picture of JFK wearing loafers on the golf course. I think this style needs to come back.

It’s a great look for the golf course I think. I’m not sure if it was a trend that was every big in golf circles. I don’t know of any current professional player to wear loafers for golf shoes – with spikes or nubs on the bottom of course.

I do see the issue of traction and stability coming with slip-on golf shoes.

I think it could work though. Take something like the penny loafer driving moc and add a rugged sole for traction and I think you might be on to something.

Rockport Greenbrook

Get a laid back PGA pro to wear them on the course and they could take off. Maybe Fred Couples?

What do you think?


Let’s bring back the loafer!

How do you feel about loafers? I’m all for bringing them back and even though some aren’t sold on loafers I still think they have a place in society.

I have on my black venetian loafers right now. Leather bottoms. They’re black with black socks and blue jeans. They’re comfortable and I think they look good, but that’s my own opinion of course 🙂

What do you think?

For more check out:

Pick of the week: Men’s loafers

How to Buy The Right Shoes

What we’re wearing – The Loafer

White Loafers image courtesy of thinkofacolour