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.