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Man's legs wearing khaki pants and brown horsebit loafers

8 Types of Loafers for Men and How to Wear Them

We’re here to tell you how to wear loafers. We are providing an overview of the different types of men’s loafers and what kind of stylish apparel those loafers go best with. Also, we’ll be addressing the ongoing relationship: loafers with socks or no socks? Indeed the socks loafers dynamic is deeper than meets than eye. So if you’re wondering how to wear loafers, what types of loafers there are, or when exactly to go sock-less, read on so that you may wonder no more.

Three men outfit styles wearing loafers
How to Wear Loafers | Image: Pelle Crepin/Olie Arnold/Mr Porter

How to Wear Loafers

Before we get stuck into the 8 different types of loafers for men, you might want to work out how to wear them. Loafers are made of smooth materials like suede and leather. They’re typically available in a number of darker colours that will happily blend with a wide range of outfits and styles. Indeed, the guy to your left might be rocking penny loafers with shorts and a t-shirt while the guy on your right might be wearing tassel loafers with a linen suit. That said, here are some general guidelines on how to wear loafers:

  1. Smart casual is your best bet. Men’s loafers and the smart casual dress code were pretty much made for each other. Both exhibit simple style and class. Just remember that smart casual is usually far more “smart” than it is “casual”. Penny loafers are the most versatile loafer, and you can pair them with most outfits (you could even pair penny loafers with jeans). For tassel and Gucci loafers, think fitted trousers with a blazer and crisp button-downs.
  2. Black Tie and Loafers Don’t Mix. If you’re going to wear loafers with a suit, it should be a relatively casual suit, not a three-piece. We’re talking seasonal wear like a tailored linen suit, or maybe a cotton blazer with fitted trousers. With both the loafers and the suit, aim for darker colours, simple details and quality fabrics.
  3. Shorts and Loafers DO Mix. A nice pair of khaki shorts, no socks and choice loafers make for a perfect summertime outfit. Throw in a crisp shirt, some killer shades and a clean watch and you’re rolling in style.
  4. Keep it Basic. When buying men’s loafers, keep it simple by sticking with materials like suede, and colours like brown and black. Make sure you treat those suede loafers with proper care so they don’t wear down.
Close up of Velasca Ciappacan loafers with blue socks
Velasca Ciappacan | Image: Velasca

Loafers and Socks

The debate over loafers and socks or loafers and no socks is theoretically still ongoing, but there’s never been a better time to choose for yourself. In other words, wearing loafers with no socks is very popular right now, and loafers with socks never really went out of style. What’s important is that you retain a tight, tailored fit and remember that loafers do retain a slightly formal edge. If you choose to go with socks, make sure the sock patterns or colours match your outfit. Loafer socks for men have become a sock genre on their own so be sure to look into that if socks are your thing.

The main takeaway here is that loafers might be versatile enough to go with casual apparel, but they still signify heightened sartorial awareness. Socks or no socks, you want to treat your loafers as part of an overall get-up that starts at the head and ends at the footwear. It’s never really about how you wear loafers, it’s about your outfit as a whole.

8 Types of Loafers for Men

Black penny loafers with plain white background
Penny | Image: Paul Smith

1. Penny

Comfortable, traditional and classic, the penny loafer delivers straightforward elegance with enduring ease. This stylish slip-on has origins in the 30s but didn’t really take off until the 50s. Some folks say that children used to insert pennies into the slot, hence the name. Other folks say that’s just urban legend. The penny loafer is frequently offered in dark colours like espresso, burgundy, black and brown, the penny loafer remains a versatile, adaptive and downright handsome shoe.

Formality: Casual/ Semi-Formal
Style: Strap running horizontally across the top of the loafer.
Everyday wear: Yes
Season: Autumn, Spring, Summer

Brown horsebit loafers with plain white background
Horsebit | Image: Gucci

2. Horsebit

The horsebit loafer distinguishes itself by way of a golden metal strap shaped like a horse’s snaffle across the top. Popularised by Gucci, they also changed the colour from brown to black and tinkered with the lining. The result of Gucci’s tampering was an explosion in popularity. The Gucci men’s loafers became a mainstay among American power players. Nowadays, the horsebit loafer gives off a somewhat retro, but nevertheless sophisticated vibe.

Formality: Casual/ Semi-Formal
Style: Buckle across the top of the loafer.
Everyday wear: Yes
Season: Spring, Summer

Blue tassel loafers with plain white background
Tassel | Image: Edward Green

3. Tassel

Rumours abound when it comes to the origins of the tassel loafer. Most people believe the shoe was created when an actor named Paul Lukas brought a pair of Oxfords with tassels on them to a New York shoemaker, asking them to craft something similar. Let down by the result, Lukas then brought his request to the Alden Shoe Company, who combined the tassel with a slip-on loafer. Voila! The tassel loafer was born. Background accuracy aside, there’s no disputing that the shoe was a massive success, and remains one to this day. Available in materials like suede or leather, this stylish staple exudes a European sensibility and delivers classic sartorial flair.

Formality: Casual/ Semi-Formal
Style: Tassel affixed to the top of the loafer.
Everyday wear: Yes
Season: Autumn, Summer

Black Kiltie loafers with plain white background
Kiltie | Image: G.H. Bass

4. Kiltie

What was once an old man shoe has now returned as a sartorial requirement for every stylish man’s wardrobe. Often thought of like the odd one out amongst casual fans, the kiltie or kilt loafer is really the one to have for the loafer connoisseur. Just because your grandfather wore them doesn’t mean they’re anything but the full embodiment of what a loafer should be. The tassels offer a practical addition, protecting the instep and keeping the laces from snagging. Pair the kilties with some fitted trousers or suit pants and a nice coat for the fall.

Formality: Casual/ Semi-Formal
Style: Kilt style finishing on top of the loafer.
Everyday wear: Yes
Season: Autumn

Blue driving loafers with plain white background
Driving | Image: Joss

5. Driving

The driving loafer adds a level of functional grip with its defining pebbled outsole. Racecar driver or not, this loafer is a welcome addition to every man’s wardrobe with its casual comfort and summer style. If you’re looking for a pair of loafers to leave by the front door for when you need to duck out to the shops, these are the ones. The driving shoe is just as at home relaxing by the beach as it is providing the extra grip you need while carving up the countryside in your Porsche.

Formality: Casual
Style: Pebbled rubber outsole, laces on top.
Everyday wear: Yes
Season: Spring, Summer

Nude color slipper loafers with plain white background
Slipper | Image: Alden

6. Slipper

The slipper is the do it all loafer that best resembles the true origins of this footwear species. This loafer forgets all the jazz and gets down to business with a smooth upper devoid of stitching and kilted flamboyance. Depending on the choice of material you’ll be able to pair these with a suit or pair of shorts. When opting for a more casual style, avoid leather and opt for a lighter coloured suede material. If the plan is to pull these out with a suit, only go for black and choose either leather or patent material for extra style.

Formality: Casual/ Formal (depending on material)
Style: No finishings on top, one-piece material with minimal stitching.
Everyday wear: No
Season: Autumn

Red brown boat loafers with plain white background
Boat | Image: Sperry Top-Sider

7. Boat

The prep boy kings, it wasn’t until Prada put these on the runway did anyone really start wearing them. First of all, if you’re over the age of 30, forget the boat shoe altogether. If you’ve just graduated high school these might catch your eye, and if you can’t get them out of your head, just don’t wear them with anything but linen. Do not wear socks, and stick with the classics like RM Williams, Sperrys, or Timberlands.

Formality: Casual
Style: Rubber outsole, laces on top.
Everyday wear: Yes
Season: Spring, Summer

Black and khaki espadrille loafers with plain white background
Espadrille | Image: Saint Laurent

8. Espadrille

Sitting at the bottom of the styling barrel espadrille. This loafer for men is a rope-soled flat that is best for casual wear. There’s a very small list of shoes that shouldn’t be touched by stylish men, and the espadrille teeters on that fine line between acceptable and awkward. If you really want to try and pull these out you’re best picking up a pair from the likes of Saint Laurent (as pictured) or an equivalent designer brand. Add a pair of khaki shorts and a plain coloured button-up and you’re set for a day out on the boat.

Formality: Casual
Style: Woven/ rope midsole with rubber outsole.
Everyday wear: No
Season: Spring, Summer

Three men outfit styles wearing loafers
How to Style Loafers | Image: Pelle Crepin/Olie Arnold/Mr Porter

General FAQ

What is goodyear welt?

Goodyear welting is the construction process where a 1cm wide strip of leather adheres first to the leather upper of the shoe and is then stitched to the outsole. This process makes the shoe easily resoleable and extremely waterproof.

Can you resole loafers?

Cobblers fix loafers by adding half or full new soles. When you get your loafers fixed you can specify whether you want leather, rubber, or foam soles. There are many different methods of construction so speak to your cobbler whether your loafers are Goodyear welt, blake stitched or cemented.

Do you wear loafers with socks or not?

The choice is up to you, what matters more is the rest of the outfit you choose to wear. Pairing a pair of light wash denim with black loafers and white socks is a stylish modern look. Wearing socks with loafers and shorts is a bold move, but we recommend you go without socks when wearing shorts.