You’ve all seen men loafers, but why are they called penny loafers? The classic penny loafer has been a staple in men’s fashion for decades. With its iconic strap and slot across the front, the timeless shoe evokes preppy style. But where exactly does the name “penny loafer” come from? If you’re wondering about the origins of the term, you’ve come to the right place.
In short, penny loafers get their name from the practice of slipping a penny into the slit across the front strap. But there’s much more history and tradition behind these beloved shoes.
The History of the Penny Loafer
The penny loafer is a classic shoe style that has been popular for decades. But have you ever wondered why they are called penny loafers? Let’s take a look at the fascinating history behind this iconic footwear.
Origins at Norwegian Shoe Brand Aurlandskoen
The story of the penny loafer begins in Norway with the shoe brand Aurlandskoen. In the early 20th century, Norwegian fishermen wore a slip-on shoe called the “Aurland moccasin.” This shoe was made from a single piece of leather and had a strap across the front for added stability.
In the 1930s, Aurlandskoen introduced the “Aurland penny loafer,” which featured a distinctive strap across the front of the shoe. The name “penny loafer” comes from the practice of putting a penny in the strap’s slot as a fashion statement.
It was believed that the penny added a touch of class to the shoe, and it quickly became a popular trend.
Popularity in 1930s America
The penny loafer gained popularity in America during the 1930s. Ivy League students, looking for a comfortable and stylish shoe, embraced the penny loafer as part of their preppy style. The shoe became a symbol of sophistication and was often worn with suits or khakis.
During this time, the penny loafer was also adopted by businessmen and professionals who appreciated its timeless design and versatility. It became a staple in their wardrobes and a symbol of their success.
Penny Slot Tradition Begins
One of the defining features of the penny loafer is the small slot or “penny keeper” on the strap. While originally intended for decorative purposes, this slot gained a practical use over time.
Legend has it that in the 1950s, college students would place a penny in the slot and use it to make phone calls. Back then, payphones required a small fee to make a call, and having a penny readily available in your shoe was a convenient way to always have spare change.
Today, the tradition of placing a penny in the penny loafer continues, although it is more for nostalgic reasons rather than practicality. It serves as a nod to the shoe’s history and adds a touch of charm to this timeless footwear.
Why Put a Penny in a Penny Loafer?
One of the most iconic and enduring styles of footwear, penny loafers have been a staple in men’s and women’s fashion for decades. But have you ever wondered why they are called penny loafers? Well, there are a few theories behind this interesting name.
Functional Purpose of the Penny
The primary reason for the name “penny loafers” is the functional purpose of the penny. Traditionally, penny loafers featured a small slit or strap across the top of the shoe, where wearers would place a penny. This penny served multiple purposes.
Firstly, it acted as a decorative element, adding a touch of personal style. Secondly, it served as a practical measure to keep the shoe from slipping off the foot. The weight of the penny would help keep the shoe in place, especially when walking or running.
Fashion Statement of Wealth
In addition to their functionality, penny loafers also became a fashion statement of wealth and sophistication. During the mid-20th century, penny loafers gained popularity among Ivy League students and the upper class.
The addition of a penny not only showcased personal style but also symbolized prosperity. It was a subtle way for individuals to demonstrate their financial status without being overtly flashy.
Preppy Style Status Symbol
Over time, penny loafers became synonymous with preppy fashion and a status symbol within that culture. The combination of the classic silhouette, the penny detail, and the association with prestigious universities and the elite created a sense of exclusivity and sophistication.
Today, penny loafers continue to be worn as a fashionable shoe choice, embodying a timeless and refined style.
The Penny Loafer as an Iconic Style
The penny loafer is a classic shoe style that has stood the test of time. Its name, however, has sparked curiosity among many shoe enthusiasts. So, why are they called penny loafers?
Becoming Part of Men’s Fashion Uniform
The penny loafer first gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, becoming a staple in men’s fashion. Its distinctive design, characterized by a slip-on style and a strap across the front, made it a convenient and comfortable choice for everyday wear.
However, it was the addition of a small slot or pocket on the strap that gave the shoe its name.
Legend has it that in the 1930s, college students started putting a penny in the slot of their loafers for good luck. Whether it was for a payphone call or simply to have a spare coin on hand, the penny became a symbol of practicality and resourcefulness.
As a result, the shoe became known as the penny loafer.
Cultural Symbol of Ivy League Prep
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the penny loafer became closely associated with Ivy League prep style. The shoe was a popular choice among college students, particularly those attending prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale.
It became a symbol of sophistication, elegance, and a certain preppy aesthetic.
The penny loafer’s association with the Ivy League culture also led to its adoption by other subcultures, such as the Mods in the 1960s and the preppy revival in the 1980s. Its versatility and timeless design ensured its continued popularity across different fashion movements.
Continued Popularity and Variations
Today, the penny loafer remains a popular choice for both men and women. Its classic design has been embraced by various fashion brands, with each adding their own unique touch to the shoe. From different materials and colors to decorative details, the penny loafer has evolved while still maintaining its iconic silhouette.
Whether you’re dressing up for a formal occasion or going for a more casual look, the penny loafer is a versatile shoe that can effortlessly elevate any outfit. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its timeless appeal and its ability to adapt to changing fashion trends.
Why Are They Called Penny Loafers – Conclusion
With its preppy roots and enduring popularity, the penny loafer remains a staple of men’s footwear after all these years. While the penny serving as a functional gusset has become obsolete, the tradition lives on as a symbolic gesture.
For any man looking to channel a classic American style, the penny loafer delivers timeless, effortless cool.
So next time you slip on penny loafers, you can appreciate the rich history behind these iconic shoes. Simply tucking a penny into the strap slots you into a long tradition of fashion.