They’re loafers – but not as you know them

The new take on the classic shoe is decorative, sporty – and anything but boring, says Jessica Beresford. Styling by Isabelle Kountoure

Louis Vuitton leather loafers, £790
Louis Vuitton leather loafers, £790 | Image: Marili Andre

What more can be said about the loafer? From Gene Kelly’s penny styles, in which he sang and tap-danced through the mid-20th century, to Gucci’s Horsebit (fur-lined or otherwise), this all-time classic shoe has been worn through to its soles. 

Loewe patent leather loafers, £725. Olivia von Halle silk slip, £340
Loewe patent leather loafers, £725. Olivia von Halle silk slip, £340 | Image: Marili Andre

This season, however, designers are breathing fresh life into the slip-on. These new loafers play into fashion’s bourgeois sensibility, but with modern updates – they’re mid- to high-heeled, have unusual accoutrements or sporty elements, and are often rendered in light, bright shades. “Brands have been dusting off the traditional loafer while exploring new ideas and concepts,” says Mytheresa fashion buying director Tiffany Hsu. “This new wave appeals to a more fashion-forward crowd.”

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For Louis Vuitton’s spring collection, influenced by the belle époque era, artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière took dainty court-inspired loafers and revved them up, creating slip-ons that looked fit for a lap around a racecourse. On the bold end of the spectrum, these were printed with blue and green blocks of colour, while a more subdued bone-white pair featured a big gold buckle with the brand’s logo front and centre.

Gucci leather moccasins, £610
Gucci leather moccasins, £610 | Image: Marili Andre

At Loewe’s spring/summer 2020 runway, which also referenced aristocratic dress codes, creative director Jonathan Anderson turned the style on its heel, creating high penny mules and skin-tight boots with loafer details that finished above the knee. The pièce de résistance, however, was a black-and-white pair of mid-heel patent loafers that gathered at the tongue with two gold rings and a small bow.

Lacoste split-toe leather loafers, from £295
Lacoste split-toe leather loafers, from £295 | Image: Marili Andre

Loafer purists, however, have not been left out. In Lacoste’s collection for s/s 20, shown at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, low split-toe styles abounded, rendered in stark white, mint green and dusty pink. At Prada, the loafers were more serious still, in white, brown or charred-red leather with latticework on the top and sensible block heels of various heights. They were a fitting accent to a collection that was touted as the house’s most commercial – and timeless – in recent years.

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This goes some way to explain the loafer’s overarching appeal: its longevity. “Timelessness has been such a big theme in recent seasons,” says Hsu. “Brands are exploring items that represent that and, much like a classic trench coat, loafers have always been part of everyday wardrobes.” This offering is new and improved – and won’t be going out of style. 

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