The tassel loafer is an iconic footwear style that's been around for decades. That's not to say it's irrelevant in contemporary menswear – quite the opposite, in fact. Smart but not too smart, tassel loafers are a versatile option that will just as easily elevate an everyday look as balance out more formal attire. Intrigued? Check out our ultimate guide to tassel loafers below, including our pick of the best men's tassel loafers to buy in 2022.

What are tassel loafers?

The tassel loafer is a classic round-toed loafer that is characterised by its decorative tassels, which sit on the vamp of the shoe. Tassel loafers often have a 360-degree lacing system, with a single lace – usually leather – running the length of the shoe and tying in a knot at the front, from which the tassel falls. An apron stitch is featured on the loafer's upper, serving as extra adornment. Classic men's tassel loafers usually come in calf leather, suede or shell cordovan.

A brief history of tassel loafers

The tassel loafer is one of the more recent footwear styles, its origin dating back to the mid-20th century. The shoe is believed to have been a bespoke creation, at the request of Oscar-winning Hungarian actor Paul Lukas in 1948. Having  bought a pair of Oxford shoes in Europe that had small leather tassels at the end of the laces, Lukas wanted to adapt the style further. After approaching several different brands and coming away disappointed, he finally took his request to the American footwear company Alden.

The brand swapped the base of the shoe from that of an Oxford to a penny loafer, and came up with a slip-on pattern, retaining the leather lace and tassel as pure decoration. The style took off, garnering popularity with Ivy League students and the New York elite, before becoming more widely adopted throughout the US and beyond.

How to wear tassel loafers

Tassel loafers are generally considered to be the most casual of all loafer styles, but how you style them really depends on their construction and colour. For instance, a sleek black leather pair can definitely pass in an office environment when teamed with a suit, while a coloured suede pair will add just the right amount of flair to a more casual ensemble. Try teaming tassel loafers with cuffed raw denim jeans and an overshirt for a fail-safe smart-casual look. Have a summer wedding on the cards? You can't go wrong with a smart linen suit and tassel loafers. However, if the dress code is black tie, avoid loafers and opt for a pair of Oxford shoes or monk straps instead.

Can you wear tassel loafers without socks?

The socks/no socks debate can really rile hardcore menswear devotees, but there are no hard and fast rules. If your outfit is on the more formal end of the spectrum (particularly if wearing tailored trousers), it's best play it safe and opt for socks with your tassel loafers. However, given that tassel loafers are inherently more casual than their dress shoe counterparts, feel free to go sock-less for more relaxed occasions. If teaming loafers with shorts for example, a bare ankle is absolutely fine.

The best men's tassel loafers to buy in 2022

Morjas Tassel Loafer

Swedish footwear label Morjas certainly doesn't cut corners when it comes to craftsmanship. Each pair of its handcrafted tassel loafers takes 8 weeks to make and involves over 128 steps from first cut to last finish. Their Goodyear welted construction ensures they'll last for decades.

Velasca Prevost Loafer

You simply can't put a foot wrong – pardon the pun – in a pair of Velasca loafers. This tasseled pair is as classic as they come. Made in the Italian shoemaking district of Montegranaro, they're crafted from smooth brushed calf leather and feature a sturdy, weatherproof Vibram rubber sole. Do as Velasca recommends and team them with a flannel suit for an elegant winter look.

Myrqvist Mölle Dark Brown Suede Loafers

These supple suede tassel loafers from Stockholm-based brand Myrqvist epitomise laidback elegance. Handcrafted in Portugal using premium suede from renowned British tannery Charles F. Stead, they're Goodyear welted for ultimate durability. Style them with double denim for an elevated casual weekend look.

KLEMAN OLONG G VGT Loafers

Meticulously crafted in France from grained vegetable tanned leather, these KLEMAN loafers are made to stand the test of time. Wear them with chinos and a sweater vest to really lean into the preppy Ivy League look.

G.H. Bass Easy Weejuns

These men's tassel loafers from American shoemakers G.H. Bass are based on the brand's original 1936 loafer style. Engineered for ultimate comfort, they feature a soft flexible rubber sole and inbuilt cushioning. Wear them year-round for work and play, with anything from denim to tailoring.

Church's Kingsley 2 St James Loafer

This pared-back style from British heritage brand Church's is perfect for those more formal occasions. Handcrafted in Northampton from super-smooth calf leather, they feature a sturdy rubber sole and internal lining for comfort and longevity of wear.

Not feeling loafers? Check out our pick of the best men's leather sneakers.