They may have been around for the best part of a century, but penny loafers for men are more relevant today than they’ve ever been. If you’re after a classic, versatile shoe that’s just-smart-enough, then look no further.
Penny loafers are an easy-to-wear style that can be worn for a wide range of social occasions and dress codes, and are well worth a spot in your shoe rotation. But what exactly are they and how should you wear them? Scroll on for our ultimate guide to men's penny loafers, including our pick of the best pairs out there.
Table of Contents
- What are penny loafers?
- History of penny loafers
- What to wear with penny loafers
- Best penny loafers for men in 2023
What are penny loafers?
A slip-on style shoe, penny loafers are defined by a small detail located on the vamp. Across it, on the top of the shoe you’ll find an additional stylised piece of leather with a small cut-out, which gives the shoe its name. In the ‘40s and '50s American college students took to the style, putting pennies in the cut-out, partly as a way to stand out, but mostly so they had change to pay for phone calls home. Penny loafers were born.
A simple style, they're often slim in profile and as a result don’t look out of place worn with tailoring. A laceless design ensures pennies don’t stray too far into formal territory though, meaning they combine well with denim and workwear.
History of penny loafers
G.H. Bass is heavily linked to penny loafers for men - the US brand popularised the style when it brought it to America back in 1936. The design was inspired by traditional Norwegian fisherman’s shoes and, as a nod to this, G.H. Bass called its version the ‘Weejun’ to pay homage to its origins. Initially the American market favoured their Weejuns as house slippers, but it didn’t take long for them to be worn out and about.
It was those penny-wearing Ivy League college students who helped make the style a casual menswear staple, adopting it as their de facto uniform and giving birth to its preppy reputation. American college students continued to rock penny loafers on campus throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, and were further bolstered by prep-king John F. Kennedy, who too enjoyed them throughout his (most stylish) presidency.
Penny loafers were also enjoyed by everyone from James Dean and Paul Newman to sub-cultures like the mods and rude boys to Michael Jackson, who wore his Weejuns while moonwalking. Today, penny loafers for men maintain an air of preppiness but can be incorporated into a range of looks. Versatile and effortless, they’ll finish off tailoring or a layered weekend look with ease.
What to wear with penny loafers
Hark back to the penny loafer’s mid-century Ivy League heyday and opt for a pair of belted wide-leg trousers. Make sure to have the hems tailored or simply roll them up to allow some of your socks to show underneath, and complete the look with a knitted polo shirt.
Penny loafers for men are more than appropriate for a smart office look. A G.H. Bass oxblood pair adds a point of difference and will jazz up an otherwise minimally-styled outfit consisting of slim trousers and a plain white shirt. A classic mac coat completes the look, harking back to the mods of the 1960s.
Myrqvist Stenhammer Black Suede Loafers
These made-to-order penny loafers from Swedish footwear label Myrqvist exude elegance. They're guaranteed to stand the test of time, thanks to their sturdy Goodyear-welted construction, leather board heel caps and cork filling and premium water repellent suede.
Velasca Daziee Penny Loafers
Despite their appearance, these sophisticated loafers from Velasca are surprisingly not true penny loafers. They are designed to resemble the tapered shape and construction of the tassel loafer, sans tassel. With a construction method that is easy to repair, these sleek slip ons will last you years and years.
Oliver Cabell Driver Loafers
These Oliver Cabell Driver Loafers will have you going from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds, with total control. The comfortable moccasin style design will keep you calm, cool and collected behind the wheel. Meanwhile the rubber grip construction on the sole means your foot will never slip off the pedal, which you can put straight to the metal.
KLEMAN Dalior 2 Loafers
French footwear label KLEMAN is renowned for its functional worker shoes that are as sturdy as they are stylish. Crafted from premium leather and attached to a rubber sole, these loafers epitomise the brand's meticulous approach to durable construction, but with all the elegance of a refined dress shoe. Team them with a Cuban collar shirt and Bermuda shorts for a retro-inspired summer look.
Paraboot Reims Loafers Marron
Beloved by menswear enthusiasts the world over, Paraboot's Reims Loafers are a paragon of timeless casual elegance. The style is characterised by its iconic chunky and waterproof Norwegian welted construction, with full grain leather uppers combined with a hardwearing vulcanised rubber outsole. Team them with cuffed selvedge denim jeans and a worker jacket for effortless workwear-inspired style.
Velasca Moros Penny Loafers
Velasca Moros Penny Loafers in rich burgundy cordovan boast a timeless, comfortable design. The waxed leather sole ensures year-round wearability. Crafted with the Goodyear method for durability, these shoes feature exceptional, meticulously worked leather, elevating the raw material. Designed for the discerning connoisseur, they epitomize timeless elegance, both in style and craftsmanship.
Alden Unlined Penny Loafers Snuff Suede
The Alden 5735F Unlined Penny Loafer is a classic American icon. Crafted by Alden, a renowned brand with a century-long heritage, it's a versatile style that suits both casual and formal occasions. Made exclusively for Clutch, these loafers feature rich snuff suede and Alden's signature 'Van' last. Goodyear welted construction and a leather sole add authenticity. Though similar to the Leisure Handsewn Loafer, it has a machine-sewn toe box. The 'Van' last typically runs large, so consider going half or full size down from your regular shoe size for the perfect fit.
Oliver Cabell Dapple Penny Loafers
Oliver Cabell's Dapple Penny Loafers redefine effortless style. These laceless loafers, featuring a unique cow print, are the ultimate statement piece for fashion-forward individuals. With a sleeker and dressier design, they offer a quick and stylish way to step out the door, making a bold fashion statement with each stride.
Myrqvist Green Suede Lysekil
The Green Suede Lysekil by Myrqvist is a unique apron-fronted penny loafer. Crafted on a rounded, wider last and adorned with a leather sole, it offers a relaxed yet stylish appearance. Unlined and designed without heel stiffeners, it provides exceptional comfort, with minimal lining at the opening. Ideal for a laid-back summer look.
Gucci Monogrammed Canvas Penny Loafers
Gucci's Penny Loafers showcase a rugged charm with chunky lug soles and grooved rubber trims. Crafted in Italy, they feature the iconic 'GG' monogrammed canvas, accentuated by leather detailing along the collars. These loafers effortlessly blend luxury with durability, making them a versatile and stylish choice for any wardrobe.
Common Projects Leather Loafers
Common Projects' Leather Loafers exude sophistication, making them a wardrobe essential. Expertly crafted in Italy from sleek black leather, they feature chunky rubber lug soles for added durability. The brand's signature serial number stamped on the sides adds a touch of luxury and individuality to these stylish and versatile loafers.
Mr P. Backless Penny Loafers
Mr. P.'s 'David' Backless Penny Loafers are a stylish choice for warm weather. These loafers feature a backless design, ideal for a relaxed and comfortable feel. Crafted from premium leather, they maintain classic penny slots, combining timeless style with seasonal comfort and ease.
Dunhill Audley Suede Penny Loafers
Dunhill's 'Audley' Suede Penny Loafers embody 130 years of British craftsmanship and refined design. Meticulously crafted from supple suede, these loafers feature classic penny slots on the vamps. Versatile and sophisticated, they seamlessly transition between formal and casual outfits, reflecting Dunhill's timeless and distinguished style.