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How to: Wear loafers

How to: Wear loafers

"Loafers are comfortable but also refined and mature," says Thread’s style director, Shaunie Brett. "They're a versatile shoe that can work smartly or casually, depending on the style, and there's a nice element of British heritage to them: just as nowadays guys from 18 to 80 look great in Barbour jackets, all the stuffiness that may have been associated with loafers has evaporated."

Loafers come in two main varieties. Penny loafers, the simpler of the two, bear a panel across the top with a slit, historically (legend has it) designed to hold enough coinage for a phone call home. Tassel loafers are somewhat smarter, with a leather tassel on top. No matter which you choose, wear them with slim trousers, which work best with loafers’ slim shape.

Here, Shaunie shares how to wear both styles of loafer well.

Switch Derbies for tassel loafers

"Because tassel loafers are on the smarter side, they look great with suits, tailored trousers and even chinos—but nothing as casual as ripped or skinny jeans. They're a more considered choice than your usual Derbies or brogues, so they make an outfit more style-conscious than other smart shoes. I like them in chocolate-brown or black. If you don't want to make too much of a statement, go for suede: it absorbs the light and makes tassel loafers less showy."

Try penny loafers instead of brogues or boat shoes

"Penny loafers are more casual: you can wear them instead of brogues, or as a smarter alternative to boat shoes, pairing well with jeans, chinos, and even shorts. Socks enhance their smartness; leaving your ankles bare (by wearing no socks, or invisible socks) makes them more summery or casual, or less stuffy. 

“When worn with trousers, penny loafers look particularly good with a statement sock: a geometric pattern or strong block colour. Socks also make these shoes look smarter than they would with bare ankles.”

And also … how to keep loafers looking new

  • If your loafers are suede, get a suede brush. It'll be worth it if you ever get caught in the rain: brushing the shoes lightly when they're almost dry will keep them from looking tatty or developing watermarks.
  • Polish leather loafers every few months. This makes the shoes look their sharpest, but it also keeps the leather soft and supple so it doesn't crease or show wear.
  • Help them keep their shape. Because loafers are soft on top, they're prone to losing their shape if you just throw them in your closet. Shoe trees will help loafers keep their structure, but rolled-up socks stuffed into the shoes will do the job, too.