Style / April 2017

The Advent of the Loafer

The history of the loafer and its many comfortable, timesaving permutations.

A classic penny loafer style by heritage shoemakers Crockett & Jones.

The original men’s style minimalist, Beau Brummell may have freed us from frills, frippery and lace, however it was the advent of the loafer that liberated men from the tyranny of laces. Unlike Brummell — a monied man of leisure who took hours primping his ’fit each day — the modern gentleman has scant seconds to spare in his everyday sartorial preparations, and the loafer saves us valuable minutes to spend on more fruitful pursuits (bonding with our offspring, performing callisthenics, or checking lingerie models’ Instagram Stories, perhaps). For this, we must be thankful. But to whom should we offer our gratitude, you ask? Read on, sir.

London shoemaker Wildsmith is credited with creating the first modern loafer in 1926 for client King George VI, in response to the stuttering regent’s request for a bespoke casual shoe he could ‘loaf’ around his country houses in. A beefier ready-to-wear rendition suitable for outdoor use was soon put into production, and the style was quickly emulated by many more of Britain’s gentlemen’s shoemakers.

Across the sea in Norway, meanwhile, Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger, who’d studied shoemaking in the United States, developed a style jointly inspired by Native American footwear and a moccasin-like shoe traditionally worn by the hunters, fisherman and farmers of his fjord-side home in Aurland. The ‘Aurland Moccasin’ found favour throughout Europe in the 1930s, and visiting Americans brought the shoes home as souvenirs. Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Maine-based shoemaker GH Bass launched its version of Tveranger’s shoe, named the Weejun in homage to its Norwegian origins, in 1934.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.