By Whitney Hall
Dads and frat guys love it; it has the ability to add comfort to any social situation; and it can make anyone look better. It’s not beer. It’s a loafer.
In 1936, G.H. Bass released the Weejun—a loafer that entered the heart of every man who had ever hoped his wife would deem a slip-on shoe acceptable to wear outside of the home. Demand for this men’s footwear paradise soared, but the company soon noticed that women were purchasing the shoes to wear themselves, so two years later, Bass released a women’s Weejun (MacDonell, 2012). Though the name itself sounds like a last-minute idea by a Bass employee, it is actually a spin off of “Norwegian” since the make of the shoe was first spotted on Norwegian fishermen by young male American travelers (MacDonell, 2012). What started as a staple for the Norwegian fishermen’s uniforms grew to become a staple for college life (MacDonell, 2012). Originally worn with socks, men on college campuses through the early 60s were seen wearing them without socks as if they had woken up late, threw on some clothes, and slid on their Weejuns.
Its nickname, “penny loafer,” is rooted in the rumor that women would place a penny or dime in the cutout on the instep of the shoe in case she found herself out with a less-than-desirable date (MacDonell, 2012). Ladies, I think we should all take a moment and thank God for cell phones.
The first major company to slip into the loafer trend after Bass was Gucci in 1953 (MacDonell, 2012). Noticing that the Weejuns were popular on college campuses but did not transition well into the workplace, Gucci released a loafer in black with cleaner and more elegant lines (MacDonell, 2012). The men’s loafer was now appropriate to wear with suits on Wall Street or to the office.
Though the shoe’s popularity waned after the 60s, it never disappeared from fashion, making it a classic trend (MacDonell, 2012). Since Bass and Gucci, just about every company who sells shoes has carried loafers. The company who has most famously advertised their own brand of loafer is Tod’s (MacDonell, 2012). Who could forget their famous ads where they simply portrayed a picture of Audrey Hepburn or JFK above a single signature loafer?
For the laid back “Ivy League look,” guys should simply throw on a button up shirt and blazer with a pair of chinos and brown loafers. For those men who either have a bank account to support celebrity style or at least want to fake that they do, try a slim-fit gray suit, white shirt, no tie, and a pair of black Gucci’s. Ladies, too, can reach Ivy League status with chino crops; a crisp, white shirt; and their brown penny loafers. For a preppier and elevated socioeconomic twist, trade the classic brown for a colorful pair of Tod’s. To channel your beatnik style, think of Audrey Hepburn in funny face and wear skinny black pants, black boatneck t-shirt, and black loafers. Any way you spin it, loafers are an instant way to add a touch of class to your outfit.
MacDonell, N. (2013, November 23). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/loafing-around-a-brief-history-of-fashions-favorite-flat/?_r=0