How to Style Men’s Loafers for (Almost) Any Occasion

Slip into something more comfortable...

With the ease of access of a slipper and the (potential) class of a derby shoe, loafers have been a strong footwear contender since their inception in the 1930s. The multitude of loafer varieties available contributes to their versatility, cementing them as a staple in the contemporary man’s wardrobe. Here at Albert Review, we’re big fans of the loafer. So, to pay homage to this classic menswear shoe style, we’ve put together an expert guide on everything you need to know about this slip-on shoe. Read on to find out exactly what loafers are, the history of the loafer, the types of loafer styles available, and how to wear loafers for – almost – any occasion.

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What are loafers?

Loafers are a slip-on style shoe, that do not utilise a lacing or fastening system and have little to no heel. Typically crafted from leather or suede, loafers can vary in formality; ranging from casual to dress shoes.

History of the loafer

The loafers we know and love today are actually derived from the footwear of Norwegian fishermen in the 1930s. Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger of Norway, who had studied shoemaking in the United States, developed a shoe style he termed the ‘Aurland moccasin’, inspired by Native American footwear and the footwear styles traditionally sported by the local fisherman, farmers, and hunters of his home town Aurland. The Aurland moccasin became popular throughout Europe, with Maine-based shoemaker GH Bass coopting the style in 1934 by adding a strip of leather across the top and creating what we now know as penny loafers. GH Bass named these shoes ‘Weejuns’ in homage to their country of origin (i.e. Nor-wegian).

Types of loafers

A rundown on some of the most popular loafer styles.

Penny loafers

Classic and comfortable, the penny loafer style features a leather strap across the top, with a diamond-shaped slot big enough to hold a penny; allegedly where the name came from. Popular with the American collegiate crowd, the penny loafer is often seen gracing the feet of prep school and college students. However, the simple, streamlined silhouette of the penny loafer allows for them to be worn for a variety of occasions, from weddings to streetwear and everything in between. Leather is best for formal or professional occasions, whilst suede strikes a more casual tone. Typically offered in a darker colour palette, it’s common to see this style in shades of burgundy, oxblood, black, and dark brown.

AR recommends: Yuketen ’70s Leather Penny Loafer, Grenson Peter Hand-Painted Leather Penny Loafer

Tassel loafers

The exact origin of the men’s tassel loafer is a little unclear, but rumour has it they were created when Hungarian actor Paul Lukas tasked the Alden Show Company with recreating a pair of oxfords with tassels he owned. The American shoe company ended up combining the tassel with a slip-on loafer, (allegedly) resulting in the tassel loafers of today. Distinguishable by their decorative tassels on the top, tassel loafers are available in leather or suede, with the latter variety radiating European summer vacation vibes.

AR recommends: G.H. Bass & Co. Weejuns Larkin Leather Tasselled Loafer, Edward Green Portland Leather-Trimmed Suede Tasselled Loafer

Horsebit (snaffle) loafers

Created by luxury Italian fashion house Gucci in the 1960s, the horsebit loafer is identified by its golden brass strap in the shape of a horsebit across the top. Gucci also altered the colour of the traditional loafer from brown to black, resulting in a chic loafer formal enough to be worn with suiting as in addition to separates.

AR recommends: Gucci Brixton Horsebit Collapsible-Heel Leather Loafer, Gucci Brixton Horsebit Webbing-Trimmed Collapsible-Heel Suede Loafer

Slipper loafers

Arguably the most formal loafer style, slipper loafers were originally made without a toe stitch and styled with tuxedos or smoking jackets. While patent leather or velvet are common with traditional slipper styles, contemporary iterations often feature embroidery and are crafted from casual fabrics like suede or basket-weaving and are suitable for casual wear.

AR recommends: Ermenegildo Zegna Silk Satin-Trimmed Suede Loafer, George Cleverley Positano Patent-Leather Loafer

How to wear men’s loafers

Here’s exactly how to wear men’s loafers for any occasion.

Casual

Horsebit, tassel, or backless slip-on loafers pair well with casual outfits. When teaming loafers with casual chinos, trousers or jeans, it’s best to keep your pant hem on the shorter side and opt for slim-fitting styles over long, baggy varieties. For the top half, plain or graphic t-shirts, hoodies, chore coats, denim jackets, and coats are all fair game.

Summer casual

Loafers add a certain rakish insouciance to casual outfits that’s oh-so European, making them perfect for laidback summer outfits. Suede tassel, slipper style, and horsebit loafers in colours like espresso, green, or navy work well with lightweight, textured fabrics like linen, cotton, and chambray. For a foolproof summer look, you can’t go wrong with dark brown suede loafers teamed with tan trousers and a white linen shirt.

Smart casual

For office-appropriate attire, team leather penny loafers with suiting separates. Opt for blazers in shades of emerald or hunter green, yale blue, or even mustard yellow if you’re feeling adventurous, or stick to a more neutral colour palette of beiges, browns, charcoal, and navy to play it safe. Alternatively, use your shoes to inject a pop of colour into an otherwise neutral outfit, by opting for footwear in red, oxblood, emerald green, or royal blue.

Semi-formal

For semi-formal looks, choose brown or black loafers in leather or patent leather. Sleek silhouettes like slipper or penny loafers work best; pair with suits or suiting separates in neutral colours like black, charcoal, navy, beige, brown, or grey.

FAQ

Should you wear socks with loafers?

Wearing loafers without socks makes for a clean, streamlined, minimalist look ideal for casual and smart casual outfits. If going sockless, ensure you keep your pant hem shorter and steer away from baggy trousers. For formal attire (like suiting), wear socks in a colour that matches your trousers or opt for a contrasting colour or interesting pattern.

What are men’s penny loafers?

The men’s penny loafer style features a leather strap across the top, with a diamond-shaped slot big enough to hold a penny.


Words by Theo Rosen