From bright spring days through the long evenings of high summer, the loafer is a warm-weather MVP. Combining the lightweight ease of a casual slip-on with the elegance of traditional welted shoes, a good loafer holds the rare distinction of being a genuine all-rounder. Particularly now that dress codes have relaxed and show no sign of turning back, loafers have a renewed relevance in a man’s footwear wardrobe.
The most versatile among loafers is the classic penny. A rounded toe and a chunky hand-sewn apron make for a relaxed, casual piece that’s conservative enough to pair with tailored trousers but equally at home with chinos or even shorts. With no laces to tie and no occasion unsuitable, a good penny loafer will quickly become the mainstay of a warm-weather wardrobe. And that’s no bad thing—loafers will only increase in comfort and appeal with regular wear.
Tassel loafers are a more eye-catching alternative. Historically favored by a certain breed of East Coast lawyer (even being cited in a dis by Ronald Reagan), the tassel has largely shed its political associations and reconnected to its Ivy roots. In black calf, the tassel loafer is a serious dress shoe, but in chocolate suede, it’s softened into something more playful; less a straight face than a raised eyebrow.
The horsebit loafer is the rebel of the family. The Gucci model made famous by Wall Street traders is iconic, extravagant, and a little aggressive, though more recently other makers have started to offer designs that suggest calmer confidence.
Our picks for those styles, and every other essential loafer, below.
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Carmina Suede Horsebit Loafers
Family-run shoemaker Carmina makes quality Goodyear-welted shoes on elegant lasts in Mallorca, Spain. It deserves praise for making high-grade Spanish shoemaking more accessible, but its offering is far from basic.
Here, its sumptuous take on the horsebit loafer: gold hardware, offset by the perfect shade of chocolate suede, crisply finished at the factory in the Balearic Islands.
George Cleverley “Bradley” Textured Leather Penny Loafers
Offering both an extensive ready-to-wear collection and a busy bespoke trade, George Cleverley is a brand continually observing, refining and shaping its shoes. The “Bradley” is its ode to the classic penny loafer, smartened up with a sleek almond toe while still looking laid-back in pebbled cognac leather.
Fear of God for Ermenegildo Zegna Driving Loafers
Streetwear’s downturn may mean that loafers are the new sneakers, but there’s still room for a thoughtfully designed hybrid, like this pair from Fear of God’s collaboration with Ermenegildo Zegna. The soft, unstructured uppers recall refined driving mocs, while the graphic rubber sole offers all the comfort and practicality of your favorite kicks.
Church’s “Clatford” Monk-Strap Loafers
Here’s an equally attractive hybrid from the more traditional end of the spectrum: apron-toe loafers with double monk-straps in place of the classic penny bar. It’s a fitting representation of Church’s English heritage and the Italian sprezzatura of its owner, Prada. The rakish style is an easy way to add some attitude to standard suits and smart-casual attire.
Tod’s Suede Loafers
While tassels are generally considered the most dandyish loafers, this model makes them look as easygoing as slippers. That’s largely thanks to the soft construction, as evidenced by the suede’s subtle rippling around the apron toe. Casual with a kick, this pair has great range.
Paraboot “Reims” Loafers
For all their lightness, loafers need not be delicate. The “Reims” model from storied French brand Paraboot is built with a Norwegian-welted, chunky rubber sole. It’s the kind of loafer you could take up a mountain, which is exactly what you’d expect from the Alpine heritage of its maker.
Rubinacci “Marphy” Suede Loafers
This style, known as a Belgian loafer, takes its name from a design that Belgian artisans have been crafting for some 300 years. Filling the void between espadrilles and proper dress shoes, it is a model beloved by leisurely blue bloods and menswear aficionados alike. Rubinacci’s riff on the classic comes in buttery coffee-colored suede accented with the traditional black piping and bow.
J.M. Weston “180 Moccasin” Loafers
J.M. Weston is a French shoemaker inspired by American craft (taking its name from Weston, Massachusetts). The relaxed, classic model 180 moccasin has been in production for half a century and is still handmade in France.
Edward Green “Polperro” Suede Penny Loafers
Edward Green is revered for the classic “Piccadilly” loafer, but don’t overlook its slouchier, more insouciant cousin, the “Polperro.” It’s made with a lightweight sole and soft suede, with a durable leather trim, and is even foldable for easy travel. The chocolate color will be useful all year but choose the sand suede for the ultimate summer shoe.
Alden Unlined Penny Loafer
The American classic. Alden’s penny loafer has a comfortable, generous fit and a hand-sewn apron. It’s a first-class example of the preppy favorite that has won fans from Boston to Tokyo. Choose the classic brown calf for its versatility, burgundy for a richer, more formal feel, or glossy, near-indestructible shell cordovan.
Baudoin & Lange “Sagan” Suede and Alligator Loafers
Baudoin & Lange have rightly won acclaim for their finely-balanced, slipper-soft Belgian shoes and simple, elegant penny loafers, but this doesn’t mean they are unadventurous. This lavish forest green model ups the ante with suede and eye-catching alligator, entirely handmade in England.
Stubbs and Wootton Venetian Apron-Toe Loafers
The Venetian loafer is a plain design without tassel, riding accessory, or anywhere to store loose change. It’s a shoe for unhurried fun, not far from the velvet slipper. This refined model from Palm Beach brand Stubbs & Wootton is handmade in Spain.
Tom Ford Grosgrain-Trimmed Patent-Leather Loafer
A black-tie classic from the master of American glamour. Tom Ford’s Italian-made evening shoe is a smooth wholecut loafer in shimmering patent leather, decorated with the same grosgrain silk as the facing of a tuxedo. At once decadent and at ease, it’s a winning formulation of leisured elegance.