A penny loafer goes with almost any outfit: whether worn with a shirt, a polo shirt or a sweater, you can’t go wrong with a penny loafer. As far as pants are concerned, a pair of jeans or chinos fit the penny loafer perfectly.
The loafer impresses with a sporty look and elegant appearance: Being a slip-on shoe, the penny loafer is also easy to put on.
Origin of the Penny Loafer
In the early 20th century, Norwegian Nils Tveranger set out to improve the design of a shoe called the Teser, which was mainly worn by Norwegian fishermen and farmers. The Teser was a sturdy and lightweight leather shoe.
Nils Tveranger traveled to the United States and discovered the moccasin, a shoe once worn by Native Americans: Impressed by the moccasin shape, he created the Aurland shoe, a cross between a teser and a moccasin. The shoe was long produced in the sparsely populated community of Aurland, Norway: Only very few of the factories that produced the shoe at that time still exist today.
The Aurland shoe is considered the classic penny loafer: It was the original design as envisioned by Nils Tveranger.
When European and American tourists traveled to Norway in the interwar period, they discovered the Aurland shoe and were amazed by its lightness and simplicity. Some tourists took a pair of Aurland shoes back home.
In 1935, a fashion photographer discovered a pair of Aurland shoes in Palm Beach and reported on it: At that time, an Aurland shoe was worn together with a light-colored suit and a Panama hat – at that time, the Aurland shoe was the perfect shoe for a casual outfit.
Arnold Gigrich, founder of the fashion magazine Esquire, recognized the potential of the Aurland shoe and contacted the fashion label G.H. Bass to bring the shoe to market. Initially, the shoe was promoted as a Norwegian fishing shoe and was named Weejun – onomatopoetic for (Nor)Wegian.
The relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated shoe was present from 1940 to 1960, especially on American schoolyards and campuses.
The term penny loafer came about when it became fashionable to put a penny in the slot of the penny loafer. Around this time, it also became fashionable to wear the penny loafer without socks.
Numerous icons of the fifties and sixties such as James Dean or Elvis Presley regularly wore penny loafers. Thus, the penny loafer became fashionable.
Michael Jackson’s dancing shoes were a pair of penny loafers: in his music videos and live concerts Michael Jackson often wore penny loafers.
Variations of the loafer
To this day, the penny loafer is a timeless shoe that goes with numerous outfits: In the past, the loafer was always worn for informal occasions. Today, the shoe is also finding its way into formal occasions.
Almost every shoe manufacturer has its own interpretation of the penny loafer: the leather, the cut, the heel and the design are varied. All penny loafers have one thing in common: they are comfortable slip-on shoes with a strap above the tongue. A good penny loafer is characterized by soft leather and a comfortable shape, so you can wear it without socks in the summer.
Cover picture: A pair of penny loafers, © Simon von Ludwig