For the third article in our series on the first five business shoes to own, let's take a look at the loafer. We'll discuss what it is, what it's not, why you should get one in burgundy first, and how best to style it.
What are Loafers?
Loafers are, first and foremost, a slip-on shoe without laces. But, they have a couple other interesting characteristics.
- They have a low upper with an attached sole. This is different than, say, a moccasin, where the upper and sole are one.
- Loafers also always have a low heel to them the way a traditional dress shoe does; moccasins don't have this.
The history of the loafer is somewhat contested. One origin story suggests it was developed as a casual country shoe for English nobility. Another contends the loafer is a direct descendant of the moccasin. A third argues that a Norwegian man slapped a sole on a moccasin, thus melding European and Native American traditions- hence the name "Weejuns."
Regardless of the history, the style has evolved immensely in the last 100 years.
Loafers will often feature some kind of strip of leather across the vamp. This is called the "saddle." In general, though, you'll see three or four different styles of loafers.
The penny loafer supposedly gets its name from American prep school students who would stick a penny in the saddle of the shoe.
Legend has it that a penny is how much a phone call cost at the time; or they were just doing it be rebellious against their traditionalist fathers.
The tassel loafer gets its name from the decorative fringed ornamentation (the "tassel" on the vamp.
While the tassel is woven around the mouth of the shoe, its purpose is purely decorative and doesn't contribute to securing your foot into the shoe.
Third, you'll occasionally see loafers with a metal bit across the saddle. As you might expect, these are called "bit" loafers.
Originally designed and popularized by Gucci in the 1960's, these loafers have a touch of European flair to them.
And, on rare occasions, you'll see loafers with a tassel and some fringe. These are called "kiltie" loafers- given that the fringe looks like a Scottish kilt. Favorites of both older gentlemen and the more dandy among us, the kiltie loafer might have a place your wardrobe.
As you might expect, loafers come in just about any color you can think of. But, in as business environment, black, brown, and burgundy are the seasoned stalwarts.
So, which should you choose? If you've followed our guide so far, you'll have picked up a pair of cap toe oxfords in black and pair of derbies in medium to dark brown. So, it would be wise to round out the collection with a pair in burgundy or Oxblood.
How to Style Oxblood Loafers
So, now that you've picked up your burgundy loafers, what wear to them with?
Burgundy shoes look stunning with charcoal suits. We actually think they look better than black with this kind of look. However, this is a flashy combination- so do exercise some caution before wearing to a sober business meeting in London!
Because loafers are inherently casual shoes, they tend to work best with business casual menswear. Arguably, they're the best combination to pair with the menswear uniform of navy blazer, grey flannel pants, and white button-down collar shirt.
Burgundy loafers also work beautifully in the most casual of business settings. Pair with chinos in stone, rust, olive green, navy blue- anything goes! Or, go for some dark wash denim.
So, we've covered what loafers are, what they're not, what kind of loafers you can find, what color to get, and how to style them.
For maximum versatility, we'd suggest going with a burgundy loafer in either a penny or tassel style. If you'd like to add a black bit loafer once you've got your basics covered, that would do nicely too.
Thanks for reading!