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History of the Loafer: A Comfortable, Stylish Walk Down Memory Lane

Throughout time, loafers have adorned the feet of royals, been improved by Norwegians and popularised by Europeans and Americans alike.  But where does the loafer come from? Let us walk you through its evolution from humble house shoe, to casual outdoor shoe, to "perfectly acceptable with a suit" shoe.

1926 – In the UK, King George VI commissioned Raymond Lewis Wildsmith to make a country house shoe suitable to wear indoors. Raymond’s design was a lace-less, low-heeled, slip-on design, which is today known as the Wildsmith Loafer. Although designed for indoor wear, the shoe quickly gained popularity and became accepted as casual outdoor footwear too.

1930 – The “Aurland moccasin” – A shoe with heels – which is thought to have been influenced by the North America Iroquois people, as well as the traditional moccasin-like shoes worn by the fishermen in Aurland, Norway – was introduced to the world by Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger, a Norweigian shoemaker. Americans tourists in Europe liked the look of these shoes, and over time, the Aurland moccasin was introduced to American markets.

Early 1930s – The Spaulding family in New Hampshire started making shoes based on the Aurland Moccasin. They named it the Loafer, which was a generic name for slip-on shoes in America.

Mid-1930s – The G.H.Bass shoe company began manufacturing a new version of the loafer, which was designed with a distinctive strip of leather (the saddle) featuring a cut-out diamond shape. Keen to differentiate their shoe from the Spaulding Loafer, the company named the shoe Weejuns (a nod to its Norwegians roots).

1950s – American students in the 1950s coined the term Penny Loafer, when they began inserting a penny into the diamond shaped cut out of their Weejuns. This was either a fashion statement or due to two pennies being sufficient to make an emergency call.

1968 – Gucci elevated the loafer – until now an informal shoe, often manufactured using brown leather in keeping with its casual status – to a piece of footwear suitable to dressier occasions. How? He produced the shoe in black and added a brass strap in the shape of a horse’s snaffle bit across the front. The result? The loafer was reinvented with just enough formality to be considered suitable to wear with suits. By the 1970s, it was adopted by businessmen as work attire.

Here at Altitude Shoes, we believe that every man should own at least one pair of loafers. Hovering between casual and dress, these shoes can lift a so-so outfit into something smart and stylish, or help tone down a dressier ensemble for more relaxed occasions. (Read Top Tips for Wearing Loafers with Style and Flair.)

As a flexible and stylish shoe, the loafer is a valuable investment for any man who cares about looking smart and making a good impression, even when dressing casually.

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