The Tassel Loafer
Although ‘tasselled loafer’ may in some places be a pejorative for ‘lawyer’, the style first came about thanks not to an attorney but an American actor by the name of Paul Lukas.
Lukas, an Oscar-winning Hungarian-born actor who starred in films including The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Watch on the Rhine (1943), was well known for his debonair style and – the story goes – at some point during the 1940s approached several shoemakers, instructing them to design a shoe that riffed on a tasselled Oxford style he’d picked up in Europe.
Low and behold, in 1950, one of America’s then leading shoemakers, the Alden Shoe Company, released the first tassel loafer, with initial batches flying off the shelves by 1952. A few years later, in 1957, high society outfitters Brooks Brothers started stocking their stores with an exclusive tassel style featuring distinctive foxing (i.e. raised stitching) at the back of the shoe.
Subtly decorated in comparison to the fairly sober and traditional penny, tassel loafers satisfied mid-century America’s demand for an elegant, dressy shoe design that didn’t sacrifice practicality.
Today, arguably the best-known tassel model is the cordovan. Unlike most formal leather shoes – which are made from calfskin – cordovan loafers are crafted using the subcutaneous layer of a horse’s rump. Durable and lustrous, cordovan is also the least porous of leathers, and so highly sought after – which goes some way in explaining why you’ll need to cough up almost $700 for a pair by Brooks Brothers