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Tasseled loafers

Slip-ons, are low, lace-less shoes. The style most commonly seen, known as a loafer in American culture, has a moccasin construction. First appearing in the mid-1930s from Norway, they began as casual shoes, but have increased in popularity to point of being worn in America with city lounge suits, though these still require lace-up shoes in more conservative locations such as Britain. They are worn in many situations in a wide variety of colours and designs, often featuring tassels on the front, or metal decorations (the 'Gucci' loafer).

A less casual, earlier type of slip-on is made with side gussets (sometimes called a dress loafer). Made in the same shape as lace-up Oxfords, only lacking the laces, elasticated inserts on the side allow the shoe to be easily removed, but remain snug when worn. This cut is unusual and has its greatest popularity in Britain.[1]

Contents

Loafers

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History

The Norwegians producing leisure slippers of the moccasin style in the 1930s began exporting these to the rest of Europe where they were taken up by visiting Americans,[2] and championed by the American Esquire magazine. The Spaulding family in New Hampshire started making shoes based on this design in the early 1930s, naming them loafers, the general term for slip-on shoes that remains still in use in America. In 1934, G.H. Bass (a bootmaker in Wilton, Maine) started making loafers under the name Weejuns (sounding like Norwegians).[3] The distinctive addition was a strip of leather across the saddle with a diamond cut-out. Initially only worn in the summer at home, the shoe grew in popularity in America to become a significant part of men's casual shoe wardrobe, though back in Europe its ubiquity has never reached the same degree. When American prep. school students in the 1950s wishing to make a fashion statement took to inserting a penny into the diamond-shaped slit on their Weejuns, the name penny loafer came to be applied to this style of slip-on and has since stuck, though the practice itself does not continue.[1]

In the mid-1950s, further continental influences brought a more elegant image to light, lower-cut slip-ons, which moved from purely casual use to being paired with suits in the 1960s (but still only in America).[4] In 1966, Italian designer Gucci made the further step of adding a metal strap across the front in the shape of a horse bit. These Gucci loafers (now a general term referring to shoes of this style by any manufacturer) also spread over the Atlantic and were worn among by 1970s business men, becoming almost a Wall Street uniform, until reaching widespread use by the 1980's, mainly because of singer Michael Jackson wearing them everywhere he went. [5]

Another variation on the basic style is the tassel loafer, which emerged in the 1950s. Again, though casual, their gradual acceptance among the American East-coast prep. culture as equivalent to brogues (wing-tips),[4] has led to them being worn there with suits, and they have gained an association with, for example, business and legal classes.

There is also a bespoke shoe company based in London that was established in the 1800's who developed a penny loafer as a country house shoe for the landed gentry and the Royal family. The 'Wildsmith Loafer' made by Matthew Wildsmith & Co of Duke Street, was designed for George VI as a casual house shoe. The shoe has subsequently been marketed and sold by other London shoe firms and dubbed ‘the Harrow’. [6]

Use

In America and less formal European countries, such as Italy, the loafer enjoys general use as a casual and informal shoe worn for work and leisure, though lace-ups are still preferred for more formal situations.[1] The general popularity of brown over black extends to loafers, and more exotic leathers such as suede and cordovan are worn (the latter restricted to America). The Gucci loafer, when still worn, is common in black as well as brown.


Though originally men's shoes, some styles of loafers, such as casual tassel loafers, may be worn by women.

Side-gusset shoes

Having an entirely different evolution to the loafer, this other style of slip-on was invented by J. Sparkes Hall for Queen Victoria in 1836. The stretchable rubber produces a comfortable shoe combining the ease of putting on of lace-less shoes with the profile of lace-ups. Its feminine image was soon lost, and was dubbed Congress gaiter and Boston boot in America. Rare even in Britain, its country of origin, it is still the only style of slip-on worn with a suit in some of the highly conservative working environments in the City of London.[7] With such a background, their use mimics that of Oxfords, so they are worn in brown with broguing as a country shoe, or in plainer, black styles with suits.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Antogiavanni, Nicholas (2006). The Suit: A Machiavellian approach to men's style. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 92. ISBN 0060891866.  
  2. ^ Flusser, Alan (2002). Dressing the Man. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 202. ISBN 0-06-019144-9.  
  3. ^ Flusser (2002). p. 203
  4. ^ a b Flusser (2002). p. 196
  5. ^ Flusser (2002). p. 205
  6. ^ Lewis, Neil (November 3, 1993). "The Politicization of Tasseled Loafers". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE3DE1039F930A35752C1A965958260.  
  7. ^ Flusser (2002). p. 197

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