I’ve chosen the penny loafer simply because most people don’t know why they are called penny loafers while most of us know what a loafer is. For those who don’t know, a loafer is best explained as a shoe that does not make use of a fastening system – like laces – but is merely slipped on the foot, which is why they are also often referred to as “slip-ons”.
The origin of the loafer seems to date back to 1874 where Wildsmith shoes designed a pair of casual house shoes for King George VI called the “wild smith loafer”. In 1908 however in Aurland, Norway shoemaker Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger introduced a loafer called the “Aurland shoe” or “Aurland Moccasin” based on the design of moccasins worn by native Americans, these quickly became the casual shoe of choice all around Norway and soon the rest of Europe. It was only after Esquire magazine published an article on Norwegian dairy farmers, loafing around in their casual Aurland shoes in 1930 did the loafer trend take off in America.
With loafers being all the rage shoemaker John Bass began producing loafers he called Weejuns (after the shoe’s original wearers the Nor’wegians’) but with a signature split strap across the top of the shoe meant to look like a pair of lips with a diamond cut out in the middle. It wasn’t long before people started further customising their loafers by slipping small decorative objects below the slit.
In the 1950’s its said that American prep school students started slipping pennies into these slits not only as fashion statement but also because 2 pennies was enough money to make an emergency phone call back then, the name penny loafer was born.
Like all fashion, loafers have seen a continuous evolution both in their use and style over the years with different details being introduced like tassels and metal bars, they have also been worn everywhere from the boardroom to the moon (little Micheal Jackson “moonwalk” joke there for you people) and their versatility is endless.
Strangely enough it’s not till recently that I started wearing loafers and now that I’ve started I don’t really wanna wear anything else, to me they just scream of Europe in the summer. After writing this article, I also realise I don’t own a pair of penny loafers, I really need to get my hands on some, in the meantime the ones above are my current favourites and all from Dune London.
Okay. Stay fancy.