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April 12, 2024

Penny Loafers - A Brief History

Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Elvis Presley

The first thing to know about penny loafers is that the iconic mid foot cutout--despite urban legend--was most likely NOT used for emergency phone calls since American pay phones have NEVER accpeted pennies and even the earliest verions cost at least five cents to use (we’ll touch on this later). The second thing to know is that the style holds its roots in First Nation "makasin" and a Norwegian fishing shoe called the "teser" in a prime example of how cultural exchange advances civilization: a man named Nils Tveranger went to America to study the Iroquois art of cordwaining in order to improve the design of the lightweight slip-on, creating the Aurland moccasin. The Aurland very quickly became coveted souvenirs for world travelers, prized for the simplistic beauty and disarming comfort of its core aesthetic, and very quickly became a brand of the wealthy vacationing elite.

In 1934 Arnold Gigrich, the founder of a magazine called Esquire, shared a sample with John Bass, son of the founder of a American footwear company in Maine. Two years later, G.H. Bass released the "Weejun," a loafer fashioned with a more durable leather sole, which was quickly adapted by college students for its convenience and distinctive style during an era where "Ivy Prep" was taking the US by storm. It was during this time that inserting coins into the front "slots" became a practice that started on campuses as a purely stylistic fad; conversely, the trend of wearing loafers sockless was rumored to originate from tardy students rushing to class rather than a thoughtful aesthetic choice. The "penny" loafer, as the style was dubbed, was quickly adopted by the likes of influencers like Miles Davis, James Dean, and John F. Kennedy. They were the weapon of choice for a young crooner from Mississippi in a film called "Jailhouse Rock." His name was Elvis Presley. The penny loafer would later give way to other iconic styles like the tassel loafer.

The third, and most important thing to know is for those who are trying to rebuild their wardrobe with timeless essentials that work perfectly in a variety of situations, the penny loafer is arguably the most versatile footwear building block to have. They can be worn smartly with a pair of scrunched tube socks and shorts, or live effortlessly under a crisp pair of chinos, and still feel classy paired with a suit.

Solovair makes one of our favorite versions, hand crafted in the UK and finished with a Goodyear welt and their signature "sole of air," which creates a slightly more filled-out silhouette that is easy to wear both formally and casually. ” Cut in their classic black hi-shine leather, the shoes are simultaneously striking, subtle, and elegant. We are very happy to stock them in sizes for all genders.

Visit the studio to try on a pair or explore them online today, and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out or speak with our staff with any questions.


Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Miles Davis
Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Steve McQueen
Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Paul Newman
Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Miles Davis
Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Take Ivy
Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - James Dean
Goodfight - Penny Loafers - A Brief History - Cary Grant

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