WE’RE NOT QUITE ready to call a time of death on the sneaker, but our lace-up friends should be watching their heels. Because the loafer has proven to be the most versatile shoe of 2024. Its bookish appeal lends an instant polish to any fit – casual to smart-casual to semi-formal to formal – because a well kept pair can not only take you from day to evening, but into decades to come.

Perhaps a propelling force behind the resurgence of loafers is the ‘anything goes’, mishmash codes of menswear right now. The best dressed men of today, you may have noticed, are blending certain elements of streetwear with classic pieces that are typically associated with tailoring. Right now, you could find a man in any city wearing a pair of loafers and pleated trousers with, say, a chunky hoodie – and it just works. By today’s standards, it’s all about that blend. And it’s the variety of the style that has to do with its adoption in countless style tribes. Loafers come in several different variations (the most popular being the horsebit, tassel and penny), and each lends itself better to certain occasions than others.

So, where to start? In our opinion, the penny is the consensus choice: unadorned, clean lines, and a slim silhouette. They can offer a textural play too, from leather to suede, adding depth to any ensemble without trying very hard.

Here, we round up the best and most versatile loafers for any and all occasions.

Sebago Classic Dan Loafers

When it comes to preppy-style, American brands are your go-to. Originating from Maine (aka ground zero for modern prep), Sebago have been crafting some of the world’s best and most affordable loafers since 1948. The classic Dan are the quintessential pair: all black leather in a slimmed down silhouette, these loafers are the most versatile you’ll find. If this is your first foray into the loafing game, our advice is that a slim loafer, like this, can be thought of as the Samba-adjacent. Whether you wear them with jeans, trousers or shorts, you can rely on them to provide an instant lick of polish to your fit.

Gucci Horsebit 1953 Loafers

We have Gucci to thank for bringing the loafer back into the modern menswear lexicon – the brand’s Horsebit loafers are probably the most ubiquitous style we’ve seen emerge from the last decade. Seen on the feet of Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Mescal, and Leonardo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street – the Horsebit loafers are nothing if not cinematic. Again, with jeans or shorts, socks or (contentiously) sockless, they will be a staple for years to come.

BOSS Apron-Toe Loafers

For a slightly chunkier style, BOSS’ leather Apron-Toe loafers with fringe trim get our vote. The fringing brings a hint of golf pro energy to the ensemble, while the thicker sole allows for incredible comfort. The navy blue tone is also a great alternative to classic black, while still pairing like a neutral.

G.H. Bass Heritage Larson Weejun Loafers

There’s something appealingly retro about two tone loafers. The touch of white on the top of these by G.H. Bass & Co. – another American shoemaker – gives it that dapper feel of the 1920s flapper era (think Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 epic The Great Gatsby). Another more casual option for everyday wear, these will add some extra contrast to your footwear game.

Tod’s Brown Suede Loafers

An ideal texture for winter, the look of supple suede in warm neutral tones makes for a cosier option for cooler times. The material’s soft texture also elevates a casual fit while still maintaining a laid-back slouch in its design.

Bally Suisse Patent Leather Loafer

Finding footwear for the evening can be an intimidating process of choice. The decoration of brogues or wingtips, for example, can signal a level of formality you’re not dressed for – unbeknownst to you, a faux pas. A patent loafer for the evening, however, is a failsafe option. Patent leather give your feet that nice sheen of gloss, uninterrupted by the fuss of laces, for clean lines.

G.H. Bass & Co. Larkin Tassel Loafer

Tassels make just about anything a touch more exciting. On a loafer, tassels lean particularly well for smart-casual occasions, while remaining playful enough to not be too formal. This wine coloured pair from G.H. Bass & Co. offer a contemporary spin on a vintage look from the American shoemaker.

Lemaire Flat Piped Loafers

These loafers by French minimalist Lemaire shape up for a slim look on the feet if you’re looking for something unconventional. Well-seasoned loafer wearers on menswear TikTok have gravitated to the pair for its artisanal appeal: made of two pieces of leather sewn and piped together down the middle, the style is inspired by shoes worn in Tai Chi, giving it a sense of reverence for traditional techniques.

Marsèll Spatoletto Loafers

Marsèll, a fantastic French luxury brand that’s very under the radar (even for those in fashion), is one to know if minimalism is your thing. Known for crafting unique and beautiful leather goods, it’s the brand’s footwear that shines brightest. If you’re after a chunkier soled loafer, the Spatoletto is the best choice before you verge into shoes that are comically dense. And in a square block toe, these are loafers not for the lesser man – it’s brutalism in a shoe.

Toga Virilis Polished Loafers

Japanese brands know how to do American style better than some of the Americans. As prep was reaching its zenith in the 50s and 60s, the style was imported to a post-war Japan looking to Western dress as a means of modernising society. And there is nothing more Western than this embellished pair from Toga Virilis, with metallic touches at the heel and top that recall to cowboys of yore for a textural play.

Esquire participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.


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