For many people, loafers are associated with the sunnier months of the year and a more relaxed look. So are they casual rather than formal dress shoes?
What exactly are loafers and when can they be worn? And why the term ‘Italian Loafers’? Are they originally from Italy?
Although loafers can at first appear less dressier than other styles of mens dress shoes such as oxfords, they can look good when dressed up as part of a more formal outfit.
Styles and looks vary. Some loafers have conventional, rounder toes. Others are more chiselled and sharp. Sean Connery as James Bond wore a tan pair of loafers in Goldfinger. With a light blue/grey suit, the look was masculine, relaxed and elegant.
Loafers have their origins in Scandanavia in the early 1900s. Originally inspired by the moccasins worn by native americans, loafers were first made in Norway. They then recrossed the Atlantic in the 1930s becoming popular in the US.
What is the difference between loafers and moccasins? With moccasins, the sole wraps up around the foot and is attached to a top piece. There are usually laces and original moccasins had no heel. Driving shoes are a modern extension of moccasins with a rubber sole and heel that wraps round a little to add support and grip when driving.
In the way they are made, loafers are actually more similar to other formal or dress shoes such as oxfords and derbys. The main difference is that they have no laces, instead having elasticated side gussets so allow them to be easily slipped on and off. This is a feature they share with chelsea boots.
There are three main styles of loafer. The first is the penny loafer. This became popular initially in US Ivy league colleges in the 1930s and therefore became associated with a preppy look. They had a small cut-out into which some people placed a penny or dime. Opinions vary on the reasons why – an expression of style or individuality, or a handy place to store a dime in case you needed to call for a cab in the early hours.
The penny loafer is smart, comfortable and versatile. They can be worn with a semi-casual outfit or dressed up with a jacket or suit.
The next style is the tassel loafer, similar to the penny but with two leather tassels adding a stylish touch. This style also became popular with US Ivy League colleges in the 1950s before becoming more widespead.
Blue Italian Loafers with Snakeskin Effect Calf
Lastly we have the Italian loafer. The first well known Italian loafer was made by Gucci in Italy in the 1960s, and featured a metal strap shaped like a horse-bit. This style icon became massively popular and set a new standard in style and quality. It helped make the loafer an internationally recognised style.
Italian loafers these days also include penny and tassel loafers, in a range of colours and textures. Like many Italian mens shoes they have that classic Italian look and cut – a little extra style and sharpness compared to their American cousins.
Thomas Bird Italian Penny Loafer
Both are fine. Many people wear loafers either without socks or with invisible, hidden socks. This casual look works well, especially in the hot summer months when being cool is important. Black penny loafers with a suit would look best with dark socks.
Thomas Bird currently makes four Italian loafers. Two are less formal, with a lizard skin effect embossed in calf leather. With leather soles, and less formal colours (tan and blue) these are luxurious and special loafers, while at the same time being casual and relaxed.
We have also introduced two new penny loafers into our loafer range, which are more formal. We offer a choice of black or brown calf. They also feature a more practical and long lasting leather sole with a rubber insert, so they are also perfect for the commute to the office. These versatile loafers can be worn casual or for dressier formal occasions.
More about Thomas Bird Italian Loafers
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Thomas Bird fits fairly true to size. If in doubt, go half a size smaller. This size guide shows how EU sizes compare to US and UK sizing. Please ask our advice and tell us what you normally wear and we'll be happy to help.