Since the loafer was first introduced in mid 19th century England, it has swept around the world to become a staple in both casual and formal menswear. This shoe has become so popular that a quick search online for “men’s loafers” yields over 116,000,000 results.

So if you’re looking for information on this classic footwear, where the heck do you start? Enter, this guide. Whether you need direction on which loafers to buy, style tips, care instructions or anything else related to men’s loafers, our experts have assembled the answers. Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents
Types of Loafers
What Makes a Quality Loafer
Best Loafers for Men
Loafers Made in the USA
How to Style Men's Loafers
How to Care for Loafers

Types of Loafers

The most common types of loafers for men - in a loose order of popularity - are: penny loafers, bit loafers and tassel loafers.

popular types of men's loafers

Penny Loafers

Wondering why they are called penny loafers? This casual shoe gets its name from the unique strap that adorns the vamp of the shoe’s upper, allowing a small coin to be placed in the top of the shoe. This feature was particularly handy in the 1930s when payphones required a mere two cents to make a call. As a result men would place a penny in each loafer in the event they needed to make an emergency call. Thus the “penny loafer” was born!

Now, you might also be wondering why penny loafers are referred to as “Weejuns.” This traces back to the 1930s when G.H. Bass developed a variation of slip-on shoes commonly worn by Norwegians. In deference to their source of inspiration, G.H. Bass called this new shoe the “Weejun.”

Penny loafers are generally appropriate for most occasions and can be worn with everything from a suit to jeans. Lighter colors, suede and nubuck are ideal penny loafers for spring and summer while darker colors and heavier leathers are better suited for fall and winter.

Bit Loafers

The bit loafer was first introduced by Gucci in 1953, when Aldo Gucci added a horse bit to the vamp of a loafer. Since its inception, the bit loafer has exploded in popularity and can be worn with virtually any outfit. Unlike the penny loafer, Gucci bit loafers can arguably be worn with a tuxedo. We’ll share some more style tips later.

Tassel Loafers

Tassel loafers were developed by legendary American shoemaker Alden and first released in 1950. This totally unique style of loafer was quickly embraced as a new variation of the timeless penny loafer. Alden still makes a stunning tassel loafer and, if you’re partial to shoes made in the USA, be sure to check out our list of American made loafers.

Other Types of Loafers

The three types of loafers mentioned above barely begin to scratch the surface of the wide array of men’s loafers on the market. Other styles that we won’t dive as deep into include moccasins, drivers, venetian loafers, opera pumps and kiltie loafers.

What Makes a Quality Loafer?

When shopping for loafers, there are two key things to look for:

what makes a quality pair of loafers for men

Resoleable Construction

  • Examine the sole for stitching
  • Blake-stitched or Goodyear welted shoes can easily be resoled
  • Resoleable loafers can last for decades

When shopping for men’s loafers, one of the first tell-tale signs of quality is to examine the outsole of the shoe for stitching. If there are no visible stitches on the bottom of the shoe, it was likely constructed using cement or an adhesive which will not allow the shoe to be resoled. Once the shoe wears out, it will have to be discarded.

Alternatively if you do see stitching on the bottom of the loafer, it is generally an indicator of quality and means the shoe was either Blake-stitched or Goodyear welted. This type of shoe can easily be resoled, allowing it to last for decades with the proper care and maintenance. Note that driving loafers and moccasins typically cannot be resoled.

Premium Leather Upper

  • Inquire with the retailer about the type of leather in the upper
  • Full-grain and top-grain leather are ideal and long lasting
  • “Genuine” leather, corrected grain, etc. typically won’t last as long

Manufacturers of quality dress shoes will typically clearly notate the type of leather used in making their loafers. If it isn’t readily apparent, be sure to inquire with the retailer. Full-grain leather receives minimal processing and alteration from its natural state. This allows it to very effectively retain polish and shine, making it ideal for a nice pair of loafers.

Top-grain leather is considered the second best type of leather and may also be called “split leather.” This type of leather receives more processing and manipulation from its natural state than full-grain leather. Further down the line in terms of quality are corrected grain - which is subjected to much more processing - and “genuine” leather which tends to be a catch all term for lower qualities of leather.

Now that we’ve established what to look for in picking out quality men’s loafers, keep reading to take a look at some of our team’s recommendations.

Best Loafers for Men - Our Top Picks

With so many options on the market, what are the best loafers for men? Before answering that question, keep in mind that much of this is subjective. Quality leather dress shoes are typically crafted on a last, which determines the fit and sizing of the shoe. Some lasts will fit you comfortably while plenty of others won’t.

It can be difficult to nail down the sizing with loafers, so our recommendation is always to visit your local men’s store for a proper fitting. In the event you have to buy loafers online, be sure the retailer offers a flexible return policy. Without further ado:

101484 by Meermin [Best Penny Loafer]

black penny loafer by Meermin

Mallorca is a picturesque island off the Mediterranean coast of Spain and is home to several quality shoe manufacturers including Meermin. Meermin’s 101484 is our pick as the best penny loafer for men. This shoe offers incredible value as a sleek-looking, Goodyear welted shoe for under $200. As detailed above, a shoe that is easily resoleable is truly built to last and ends up being quite economical in the long run. The 101484 loafer is available in a variety of colors. $195 from Meermin.

Millbank by Jay Butler [Best Bit Loafer]

brown Millbank bit loafer by Jay Butler shoes

Jay Butler is a smaller, less well known brand that we believe deserves greater attention for its stylish, affordable loafers. The company’s Millbank is our pick as the best men’s bit loafer. This shoe is a low profile, traditional looking men’s bit loafer that is available in a wide variety of colors and styles. Whether you prefer a silver or gold bit, they offer both. One thing to note is that this loafer has a very low vamp so you’ll have a hard time finding loafer socks that don’t show. $195 by Jay Butler.

Bernard by Beckett Simonon [Best Tassel Loafer]

brown tassel loafer by Beckett Simonon

Beckett Simonon offers solid value with their Blake-stitched, resoleable shoes. I’ve personally worn their Lambert and Roy penny loafers for over two years now and have gotten plenty of use out of both pairs.

The Bernard tassel loafer comes in a variety of colors, with the light tan being my favorite. The only downside is that Beckett Simonon’s shoes are made to order, meaning you’ll have to wait around two months for them to be delivered. $209 from Beckett Simonon.

Boston Loafer by Crockett & Jones [Premium Pick]

brown suede penny loafer by Crockett and Jones

If budget isn’t a priority and you’re truly looking for the best loafers, we highly recommend that you explore both Alden and Crockett & Jones. While certainly on the pricier end of the spectrum, these brands make fantastic men’s loafers.

The Boston loafer from Crockett & Jones in dark brown suede is hard to beat; a classic penny loafer with a sleek silhouette, this shoe is effortlessly stylish. $590 from Crockett & Jones.

Randolph Loafer Sneaker [Comfort Pick]

Randolph comfortable hybrid penny loafer by Allen Edmonds

If you are planning on standing all day in dress shoes, you should consider wearing a different style of dress shoe as loafers typically have a thin sole and don’t offer significant cushioning.

Now, as we all know, comfort shoes aren’t always the most attractive shoes… But the Randolph Sneaker is a fairly stylish hybrid dress shoe that combines a quality leather upper with a cushioned sneaker sole. If you’re looking for the most comfortable loafers for men, you’re going to need something like these that offer plenty of support. $295 from Allen Edmonds.

Navy Suede Darwin by Loake [Unique Pick]

unique navy suede penny loafer by Loake

This navy suede penny loafer has contrasting light blue stitching for a very distinct look. We chose this loafer as our “unique” pick to add a little variety to the list. While not for everyone, it’s a unique shoe that will certainly help you stand out from the pack. $210 from Loake.

After you’ve picked out the best loafers, you’ll need to complete your outfit with the best dress socks. Boardroom Socks offers an extensive selection of dress socks in both merino wool and extra-long staple cotton.

Shop Boardroom Socks

Loafers Made in the USA

If you prefer purchasing American made dress shoes, you’re in luck when it comes to loafers. There are several brands known for crafting stylish, comfortable loafers right here in the United States:

Alden [Premium Option]

Massachusetts-based Alden is particularly renowned for its use of shell cordovan and other high end leathers. Expect to pay a premium for their American made loafers, but you won’t be disappointed with the quality and style.

Alden loafers made in the USA

For a men’s formal loafer, Alden’s dark brown or black shell cordovan styles are a great option. My personal favorite is their suede penny loafer, a casual loafer that exerts effortless style and will look sharp with everything from suits to jeans.

Allen Edmonds [Value Pick]

Allen Edmonds is entering into its hundredth year in business, with a long legacy of producing quality men’s dress shoes in its Port Washington, WI facility. The brand represents great value for the money with easily recraftable dress shoes that start around $250. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect them to last for several decades.

Allen Edmonds loafers made in the USA

Allen Edmonds’ most popular loafer is their Randolph penny loafer, followed by the Grayson tassel loafer. Note that not all of the company’s loafers are made in the USA; they also have a line of loafers imported from Italy as well several styles that are produced in the Dominican Republic.

Rancourt [Casual Pick]

Rancourt & Co. is based in Lewiston, ME and primarily specializes in handsewn, relaxed footwear. If you are looking for American made driving shoes, moccasins or boat shoes, Rancourt is definitely the brand for you.

Rancourt loafers made in the USA

The casual nature of the brand’s footwear is reflected in its collection of loafers as well. The beefroll penny loafer is perfect for weekend wear with chinos, khakis or jeans while the bit loafer leans slightly more formal toward business casual.

Beyond the Loafer

After picking out some loafers made in the USA, why not complete the look with American made socks? Boardroom Socks is a small, family-owned manufacturer of premium men’s socks. We produce each pair locally in North Carolina and design them to be as comfortable as they are stylish.

Shop Boardroom Socks

If you’re in the market for other dress shoes beyond just men’s loafers, be sure to check out our guide to dress shoes made in the USA.

How to Style Men’s Loafers

As we’ve highlighted above, the beauty of loafers is that they are such a versatile shoe; they’ll look sharp with a suit and even jeans - more on that in a moment. Stylistically, one of the most important things is to ensure that your shoes properly match the formality of the situation in which they will be worn.

How to Wear Socks with Loafers

We’ve written extensively about why you should wear socks with loafers; from health risks to extending the life of your loafers, there are many reasons why it’s a good idea. But how does one stylishly wear socks with loafers?

  • Unless it is 1950 and you’re an Ivy Leaguer, leave the chunky white socks for the gym!
  • White dress socks, on the other hand, are fine.
  • Wear dress socks with loafers, not athletic socks.
  • Avoid mixing patterned socks with patterned pants.
  • Coordinate your socks with your pants, not your shoes.

For more style tips on wearing socks with loafers, be sure to read the following articles:

 Other Helpful Articles on Sock Style:
How to match socks, shoes and pants.
Comfortable and stylish ways to wear socks with loafers.
What are business casual socks?

How to Wear Jeans with Loafers

Jeans and loafers are both inherently casual, so they naturally look stylish together. Below is a composite image showing several outfits that tastefully combine jeans, loafers and dress socks.

wearing jeans with loafers the right way

Just about anything goes when it comes to wearing jeans with loafers and while there aren’t any hard and fast rules, the suggestions below will ensure you look sharp:

  • For warm weather, you can cuff your jeans with a slight roll.
  • Light wash jeans with light colored or suede loafers are good for spring and summer.
  • Dark wash jeans with dark loafers are sharp for fall and winter.
  • Avoid wearing patterned dress socks with jeans and loafers. Stick to solids.

For further details and style tips, be sure to read our in-depth article on wearing jeans with dress shoes.

How to Care for Loafers

Now that you have invested in a quality pair of men’s loafers, how do you take care of them? For starters, be sure to always follow these three rules:

  • Always wear socks with your loafers.
  • Use shoe trees when not in use.
  • Don’t wear the same pair several days in a row.

Not wearing socks with loafers can lead to the accumulation of odor and moisture that causes premature wear and can degrade leather.

Even when wearing socks, moisture will still accumulate which is why you should always use cedar shoe trees when not wearing your loafers. These will pull moisture out of your loafers while also ensuring they retain their shape.

Finally, not wearing the same pair for multiple consecutive days is another tactic to allow them to fully dry out. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

man holding brown bit loafers while wearing khaki dress socks and jeans

What’s Next?

Now that you’re an expert on men’s loafers, be sure to check out some of the other helpful articles on our blog:

 Other Helpful Articles on Sock Style:
What color socks do you wear with khakis?
What socks can you wear with a navy suit?
How to wear colorful dress socks.

Nathan James
Nathan James

CEO, Boardroom Socks

Nathan is an eighth generation textile professional, passionate about producing quality hosiery right here in North Carolina. His favorite dress socks are our burgundy merino wool socks. You will also frequently find him wearing our no-show socks. Outside of the office he enjoys fishing, reading and exploring Charlotte with his wife, son and Golden Retriever.

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