Iconic Styles: The Loafer

Friday, July 12, 2013

Loafers have been a preppy favourite for a long time.

Although considered an American classic, the design actually orginated in Norway. In the early 1930s a shoemaker named Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger created the Aurland shoe, based on moccasins worn by the Iroquois in North America where he studied for a while. There is a story that they are based on Norweigen fishermens slippers, but I haven’t been able to find any evidence to back that up, and it seems it is a myth.

Around 1934 the Spaulding Leather Company in New Hampshire also began to produce a slip on shoe in this style, and in 1936 the Bass shoe company added a strip of leather across the front, and the classic Bass Weejun loafers were created. Over on the other side of the pond Matthew Wildsmith & Co of Duke Street created a bespoke penny loafer to be worn as an indoor shoe by George VI, which now survive in a similar style as “The Harrow”.

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The term penny loafers came from the practice of American prep school students in the 1950s inserting a penny into the diamond shaped cut out on the front of the shoe.

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The loafer was designed as a casual shoe, though it is now considered smart enough to wear with suits. As with many of the iconic styles I’ve covered, loafers were an item that Women pilfered from Mens wardrobes. Often seen worn with ankle socks in the 40s and 50s by preppy US girls, they are a classic style that is still popular today.

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In the pre historic days when I worked as a nurse I swore by Kicker loafers as my work shoes. These days I own one pair of cheap loafers, but they rubbed my heels so badly that I’ve been wary of wearing them again. I am tempted to try them with the preppy socks, but fear my short legs will look even shorter.

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I do love the look though, so I have trawled the internetz for modern loafers that may or may not be comfortable to wear, though leather is always a better bet than PVC!

Bargain Hunter

Black Leather Look Loafer New Look £19.99

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Middle of the Road

Womens Black Hush Puppies Ciel Penny £55

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Top Drawer

Church’s Sally Leather Penny Loafers £250

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42 Responses
  • straighttalkingmama
    July 12, 2013

    I love loafers, Bass Loafers are the best I’ve found in modern styles but too expensive for my taste as you can really only get them in the US, so once you add on postage etc :o( Years and years ago you used to get classic ones in Next, sadly no more

  • Kim
    July 12, 2013

    I’ve been wanting a pair of loafers for a while, there looked like there are some nice ones on ASOS. I’d like to wear them with ankle socks though but I can’t find any good ones. I want kinda like bobby sock I guess with folded over tops but I haven’t seen any anywhere (well, for school children anyway!). On a sock tangent, we all wore slouch socks when I was younger, thought I looked well cool!

  • Anthea
    July 12, 2013

    I really love loafers combined with ankle socks!

  • Danielle Bentley
    July 12, 2013

    I love loafers! They can be smart AND casual, what’s better than that? I love mine loads although they are PVC (exactly the same as those red ones) I would like to get some faux leather ones x

  • Teresa
    July 13, 2013

    LOVE loafers and I didn’t know they originated in Norway. Thanks for sharing!

  • Katy Jane
    July 14, 2013

    I have a pair of tan leather loathers from Marks & Spencer, they are so comfy and match so many things – a must have staple!

  • Floyd Gary Clyne
    July 16, 2013

    Find loafers on ebay. They are timeless and comfortable, worn by an older generation who took care of their leather shoes (things in general), so there are tonnes. Love the pic of Suzie Parker in loafers.

  • ioana
    August 7, 2013

    Thx for post!