Aug 09 , 2021
Tags - History of Loafers
Loafers are a staple piece in every person’s wardrobe, especially during the summer. They’re incredibly versatile and can be worn in smart or casual settings.
Whilst loafers today are available in a wide range of styles and designs, they have been dressed in different ways through the decades. And these were perceived in different ways depending on the context and where they were worn.
To understand how the shoes have changed through time in different parts of the world, let’s take a look into a brief history of loafers.
Early 20th Century - London
Wildsmith, a london based shoemaker was the first to create the modern loafer in 1926, which was designed for King George VI. At this time, the loafer was created in response to his request for a casual shoe to “loaf” around in his country houses.
Arguably, loafers are a direct inspiration from moccasins; a Native American tribe wore simple shoes made from leather and no fastenings, called “makasin” which is how they said “shoe” in their language.
During the early 20th century, Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger designed practical moccasin-like work shoes which were worn by hunters, farmers and fishermen in Aurland, Norway.
Quickly gaining popularity, these shoes were quickly widespread across Europe in the 1930s and even American tourists bought these shoes as souvenirs to take back home.
In regards to design, they were made with protection in mind and resembled slippers that were useful for outdoor wear in mild weather conditions.
Not wanting to miss out, the States caught onto how popular this style of shoes actually were, the Spaulding family, a New Hampshire based shoe manufacturer, created their version and called them loafers as they were super easy to slip on and off.
During the latter half of the 1930s, a different shoe manufacturer based in Maine, G H Bass, began to make the loafers on a bigger scale and marketed them all over the world.
And it was during this time that loafers were perceived as a comfortable yet elegant shoe, worn by the upper classes and famous actors like Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.
Unlike loafers today, loafers originally were branded as unisex worn equally by men and women. Women even favoured this style to wear to work as opposed to traditional high heels.
In 1943, Paul Lucas, an Oscar winning Hungarian actor was found sporting a pair of Oxford shoes with tasseled laces.
Being the trendsetter he was, Paul went and asked a few shoe manufacturers in the States if they could design him a new shoe with tassels on the outside of the shoe.
And just like magic, in 1949 the tassel loafer as we know it today was born!
During the 50s, the loafers were still perceived as a strictly casual shoe option in the UK.
However, on the other side of the pond, American university students were attracted to how easy these shoes were to wear and become a part of the “Ivy League” style, and this influenced the wider youth culture across the States.
Moreover, it was said that during this time students wanted to make a fashion statement, and they would insert pennies into the diamond shaped slit on their shoe, hence the name penny loafers - a style that’s still popular today.
Although this was popular amongst the American students, these loafers were also worn by those who wanted a classic, scholarly appearance like lawyers.
1960 - 1970
Moving on to the 60s, continental influences brought about more elegance, which were lower cut models which were perfect to pair with suits.
In 1966, Italian designer Gucci created the horsebit loafer which featured a metal strap across the front in the shape of a horse’s snaffle bit.
Often referred to as the Gucci Loafer, these were quickly worn by almost all business men, almost considered a Wall Street uniform.
By the 70s, loafers were accepted to wear for formal events worldwide - the global luxury brand transformed how the loafers were perceived and it’s acceptance in fancy, metropolitan settings was complete.
Loafers today are incredibly versatile and can be worn for a whole range of occasions and paired with various different outfits.
Depending on the style, they can even be worn by men on their wedding day (think classic, blck patent leather) or even as a casual option for casual summer days (such as pastel colours and suede materials).
Although styles have changed over the years, one thing remains certain - NEVER wear loafers with socks!
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