If there was ever a shoe that could do it all, it’s the penny loafer. Easily dressy enough to wear with a full suit, yet casual enough to look natural with a pair of shorts, it’s a shoe for all seasons - but summer, perhaps, most of all.
The penny loafer can be traced back to 1930s Norway, when enterprising cobbler Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger began making shoes in the style, based on the Native American moccasins and slip-ons favoured by local Norwegian fishermen (hence the G.H. Bass ‘Weejun’ brand name).
The style quickly took off and was exported to Europe and North America, where it was picked up by several makers and became, prior to the adoption of sneakers, the casual shoe du jour. Fashionable East Coast Ivy kids of the 1950s took to keeping pennies in the half-moon cutout in the strap of their loafers, for reasons of both style and practicality (such as a late-night phone call), hence the penny loafer name.
The penny loafer excels as a summer shoe for several reasons. Of all the loafer variations, the penny is the most reassuringly unfussy. Whilst they look fantastic with a suit and a fine sock, this simplicity makes them easy to wear, pairing naturally with relaxed tailoring like cotton or even gutsy fabrics like denim. From a comfort perspective, it’s lightweight and low-cut, making it great for airflow and ideal for wearing without a sock. Team them with some tailored dress shorts and you’ve got the perfect high casual summer ensemble.
Finally, and crucially, it’s just so easy to slip on - a consideration for the sake of convenience that pays sweeping dividends if you’re beachside, poolside or simply want something that will make you look smart with a minimum of fuss.