Sartorial Love/Hate: White Loafers

“What, like Don Johnson?” they asked barely concealing their mirth, as I indicated my intention of pursuing a pair of white loafers for the summer. “No” I responded, wearily “not like Don Johnson.”

White loafers are an unusual sartorial prospect. Whenever I have mentioned them, people repeat the word ‘white’ in an emphatically inquisitive manner, as though I had misspoken, as if I had announced my intention to purchase aluminium boxer shorts or a pastry necktie. White, the cleanest tone of all, and often referred to as the colour of the Gods, is sensibly considered one of the worst possible colours for footwear, but I have always been attracted to using laced versions, and various off-whites and creams, when wearing white trousers.

It always seemed such a shame to me, to end a beautifully crisp white cotton trouser with a brown shoe. Tans are more tolerable, as are many co-respondents, but a white shoe provides the only truly perfect finish.

The white loafer, however, is a different proposition altogether. Firstly because I tend to wear short-cut trousers (no break) with loafers, and secondly because I see the white loafer as a punctuation shoe, rather than a continuation shoe: I envision using a pair with some slim rolled-up khaki chinos, or a pair of seersucker shorts on a summer’s day.

The image of white loafers is, however, somewhat dubious. Beyond their associations with dated 1980s television series and Martini-Rosso adverts, they seem to have a distinctly tacky connection to hairy Lotharios, open-shirted greaseballs and cheap Mediterranean nightclubs. They are worn with overly long jeans, capacious linen trousers, with Dolce & Gabbana t-shirts, chunky watches and cheap jewellery. Like Don Johnson? Very much so. The aesthetic toolkit might be disagreeable, but the hard product is a fine one and should be rescued from the company it currently keeps.

When I discovered a pair of white calf leather loafers by Grenson, I saw none of these unsavoury connections. They were simply white penny loafers; the perfect thing for slipping on during a summer’s evening, for lounging by the dock and sipping G&Ts.
However, some friends weren’t quite so taken. “Really?” they squinted at the tiny photos on my phone “But, they look like hospital shoes.”

The problem with them is that they do not strike many people as being particularly smart, in addition to being absurdly impractical. The shock-white has a training shoe aesthetic – despite the possibilities of a more attractive last – and the eye is often drawn rather helplessly to any flaws or marks on the white surface; for any man with a fetish for clean, highly-polished shoes, maintenance would be dashed tricky.


  1. eddie dawes said:

    “…hairy lotharios, open shirted greaseballs” Are you kidding? I find it offensive you need to denigrate southern europeans in such a manner. I thought you were better than this, Winston.

    April 16, 2012
  2. Bruno said:

    2. Yo, dude, Ah’m a-thinkin’ y’all might wanna reconsidah that there phrase . . .
    “open-shirted” is a sartorial decision
    “lothario” is a life-style choice
    “greaseballs” is gonna offend lotsa guys who might well express their umbrage through violence
    “hairy”, well, Fire Island and alternate sexuality notwithstanding, *real* men have hair. Sometimes lots of it. AND we are not ashamed of it.
    But yes, white loafers do have an unfortunate connotation, and it is going to be a LONG, uphill battle for them to be accepted as stylish and sophisticated again. Is this a battle you want to fight? People DO judge by appearances (even as the phrase above evokes a very judgmental image), and you have to ask yourself if you feel like taking the unavoidable and unnecessary flak over something as essentially inconsequential as the color of your loafers. (We live in strange times . . . )

    April 16, 2012
  3. Bruno said:

    Still trying to pinch off that loaf!

    April 16, 2012
  4. gary said:

    the whole article is meaningless, who are these people who think white penny loafers are hospitAL shoes, do they know anything about fashion? white shoes go great with either white trousers or dove grey and maybe a very light blue. check out delicious junction .these are nice

    April 19, 2012
  5. dfsale said:

    What a coincidence! I too am going to be rocking some white loafers this summer, thanks to a thrift-store find yesterday. Mine are Rockports in a “driver’s moccasin” style. The leather is cream/off-white rather than “shock white,” with a dull finish and no decorations on the upper. My plan is to wear them the way most people wear canvas sneakers (think Converse or Vans)… My style is preppy enough that no one’s gonna mistake me for a Miami Vice extra.

    April 23, 2012

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