Material Matters: Leather Or Suede?
Before delving into the types of loafer you should be considering, it’s worth heeding a few memos on the importance of material. Like other smart shoes, loafers are generally made using one of two fabrics: leather or suede, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
With their sleek and gleaming finish, leather loafers make for the perfect punctuation mark for smarter looks, whether a full suit or smart-casual tailored separates combination. Although you’ll want to be sure you keep them in good nick (taking care to clean and polish regularly), loafers made from leather are markedly sturdier than those crafted from suede and will also wear well over the years, developing a unique patina in the process.
Suede, on the other hand, should – if you have any respect at all for your footwear – be exclusively reserved for the spring/summer months. Their luxurious but delicate finish means suede loafers should be protected from moisture at all costs.
Suede designs also have a slightly more casual feel (though that’s not to say you can’t wear them with tailoring) so they’re a shoe-in for a warm-weather wardrobe that’s bound to be a little more relaxed compared to your autumn/winter equivalent.
The Penny Loafer
Irrepressibly smart, the penny loafer is the preppy footwear classic that still takes pride of place on our shoe rack today, almost a century on from its invention.
Despite its connotations of US political heavyweights and film icons, penny loafers were originally conceived in Norway. Native Norwegian Nils Gregoriussen Tveranger spent his adolescence carefully studying the craft of shoemaking in America, eventually returning home to create the ‘Aurland moccasin’, a style of loafer reportedly inspired by the indigenous Iroquois.
In 1934 – prompted by Tveranger’s distinctive design – G.H. Bass & Co, a bootmaker in Wilton, Maine, released an adaptation of the Aurland, dubbed the ‘Weejun’ (sounding like Norwegian), adding a strip of leather across the saddle with a diamond cut-out detail – which, incidentally, doubled up as the ideal compartment for stashing a dime.
“The beauty of the penny loafer is its versatility; the shoe can be dressed up or down easily and works with most outfits,” says Gilad Yogev of G.H. Bass & Co. “Our Weejuns have been adopted by many subcultures and trends throughout the years.”
While it’s true pennies will work for smarter attire like summer suiting, they’re best used to add some polish to casual or smart-casual looks; think a varsity jacket, T-shirt and chinos, or an Oxford shirt, jumper and tailored shorts.