They can be tricky, and plenty of men get it wrong, but a good pair of loafers is great way to upgrade your personal style. Need proof? Look at pretty much any well dressed man from history.
Paul Newman, for example, was one of the loafer's coolest advocates. He even managed to wear them with white socks and still look good – no mean feat, as Michael Jackson later proved.
They're having a bit of renaissance now too – as Mr. Tempah demonstrates above – but to be honest, they're about as timeless as footwear gets.
The knack lies in choosing a style that suits the rest of your look, and making sure your trousers are cut to the right length and taper. If you nail those two, you can't really go wrong. To make sure, just follow our definitive guide.
1 | Make an investment
It's a failsafe rule that you should never scrimp on leather shoes, but with loafers, it's even more important. If you're sockless the heat (and sweat) will get to the leather more quickly, so if it's cheap, the shoes simply won't last as long. What's more, higher quality leather will be more malleable to the shape of your foot, making them more comfortable. That said, you can find some bargains – M&S and Jones Bootmaker, for example, are great if you want to loaf on a budget.
2 | Don't go over the top
It's easy to consider loafers as a big style statement, and for those that wear them as one, they invariably go too far. Zebra print, absurd tassels, Cuban heels, tacky detailing… we could go on. If you're buying for the summer, opt for paler shades in suede or soft leather – Tod's and Hermès are fine choices – and if it's winter, make sure they're a bit sturdier. British makers like Grenson, Crocket & Jones and Cheaney are adequately robust.
3 | Get the 'gap' right
If you want to go sockless, do, but make sure your trousers aren't sagging over your shoes or you run the risk of looking like a middle-aged movie mogul. Linen or chino trousers are best for spring / summer and wool or denim are fine in the cooler months, but in any case make sure they either taper in near the ankle or leave a slight gap. If you do want to stick some socks on, match them to the colour of your trousers. Alternatively you can go for a complete contrast, but it takes some moxy.
4 | Know the classics
Like the rest of your wardrobe, there are a few key pieces in the wide loafer gamut that any man worth his stylish salt should be aware of. The penny is perhaps the most prevalent form, and then there's the horsebit, the moccasin and the tassel. Pennies are probably the best all-rounders (especially in oxblood leather), but each style has its merits; horsebits are good for an Ivy-League vibe, moccasins are just the ticket for a drive down to Monaco and tassel loafers look great with a three-piece master-of-the-universe suit.
5 | Look after your feet
You've decided to go sockless, and that's fine, but your feet will probably get pretty hot, especially if you're loafers are made of leather. The solution, if you didn't know it already, is an invisible sock. A touch feminine, yes, but just the thing for keeping your tootsies dry and stink-free, and they make your shoes that little bit comfier too. Falke makes some of the best, but you can pick up a pair from any high street menswear store. Oh, and a subtly tanned ankle wouldn't go a miss. Don't just tan your ankles though, that would be ridiculous.