What is the history of loafer shoes? What are the different types?

Otherwise known as slip-ons or slippers in some countries, loafers are primarily low and lace-less shoes that serve as another model of moccasins, which are leather shoes with sides that are stitched together with the help of another leather piece at the top. Though invented in Europe, they are actually more popular in the American continent, especially in the North. Loafers are worn by both men and women, but you can mostly see men wearing these shoes along with business casual clothes.

Loafers have a relatively short history, but they had an immense influence on the fashion trends since its creation up to the present. Despite its popularity, no knows precisely who invented it and where it came, but there have been many theories regarding their origin. The most well-known origin is that the loafers are said to have been invented in Norway. Norwegian fishermen would usually wear these shoes that are designed in the style of moccasins, as they thought that the loafers have better traction on wet surfaces. However, the style was yet popular for other people during that time.

One of the earliest designs of the loafer to hit the market was the Wildsmith Loafer, which was made by Raymond Lewis Wildsmith, owner of a company called Wildsmith Shoes located in England. It was mainly designed as a casual wear shoe for King George VI, but years after it was exclusively made for the king, various models of the shoe made for the public to buy were developed by other firms as well.

The modern era of loafers began when a Norwegian shoemaker named Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger started his shoemaking business around 1908. In 1910, Tveranger created a new design called the Aurland moccasin, which was named after his birthplace in Vestland, Norway. He later renamed the slip-on as the Aurland Shoe. Tveranger’s design was inspired by the traditional shoes worn by the locals in Aurland. The Norwegians then began exporting the Aurland shoes to the other parts of Europe, and it eventually struck a chord with the American tourists in the 1930s. Because Tveranger’s shoes helped boost the economy of Norway, he was given a diploma at the Bergen exhibition.

Soon, the American magazine Esquire published a feature on loafers that includes some photographs of Norwegian farmers working in a cattle loafing area. It is believed that the inspiration behind the name “loafers” came from how the workers used it for cattle loafing. Later, the Spaulding family situated in New Hampshire marketed their shoes that were derived from the Aurland shoe design, and they were the ones who first named the shoes as loafers.

 Another turning point for the loafers came in 1934 when a bootmaker named G.H. Bass started making loafers under the name “Weejuns,” a term used to shorten the word “Norwegians” He named the shoe as such since it originally came from Norway and he wanted to honor the people who brought the shoe to the United States. His design included a leather strip stitched across the saddle, and this strip would have a diamond cut-out that serves differentiator between his shoe and other loafers. Numerous designs then began to come out, and behemoth fashion brands like Gucci then entered the loafer market. During the period, loafers became one of people’s most favorite casual footwear because of the durability of the leather as well as the comfort they provide. In Europe, the loafers didn’t really become popular until the 1960s.

There have been many kinds of loafers created over the year, but only four types are considered as the most prominent ones. The first one, and probably the most popular, is the Penny loafer, a classic style shoe that got its name because of how people used to put pennies inside the shoe’s saddle slot, and they would typically get the penny if they are going to make an emergency call. However, some historians believed that the penny slot trick was only an urban legend, as payphones didn’t cost less than five cents. Despite the debates surrounding the penny trick, the Penny loafer name stuck with the shoes until the modern era. Penny loafers usually have a leather strap across the top, and it is often designed with a diamond-shaped slot.

The second type is called the Tassel loafer, which is said to have been invented in the 1950s. According to a theory, the tassel loafer became popular when an actor named Paul Lukas wore a pair of tasseled loafers during a scene in a movie. A shoe company called the Alen Shoe Co. then saw Lukas wearing, and upon realizing that it has potential to be popular, the company manufactured dozens of tassel loafers in 1950. The tassel loafer remains the most versatile shoe because of its simple design that you can match with any outfit.

The third one is the Snaffle loafer born in 1968 and was introduced by Gucci. The notable feature of the snaffle loader is its brass strap at the top of the shoe that looks like a horse’s snaffle. Because of the shiny strap, snaffle loafers are typically paired with more elegant clothes like tuxedoes and coats.

The fourth style is the Apron loafer, which looks like a snaffle loafer, but it has a strap made of leather instead of brass. This loafer is as versatile as the tassel loafer, although they are more worn with business casual clothes.

You might also like: