The rise of the slip-on shoe has become apparent since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic with gentleman swapping professional staples including the traditional Oxford shoes with laceless styles that are easy to wear and offer a business casual appearance. Excluding the house slipper, there are several slip-on Barker shoes in the current collection which are essential when considering investing in styles such as a loafer, moccasin or slipper.
The most popular Barker slip-on style is men's loafer, an effortless slip-on with certain designs having an impressive history behind them. A menswear classic is the Penny loafer which has several historical origins, firstly in London where a bespoke shoe company called Wildsmith Shoes designed a slip-on shoe for King George VI as a casual house shoe. Designed by Raymond Lewis Wildsmith the bespoke design was called the ‘Wildsmith Loafer’ and has subsequently been sold by other London shoe firms under the name ‘Harrow’.
Secondly, an Aurland-based shoemaker called Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger designed a loafer in 1908 that was originally worn by Norwegian farmers. In 1930, Tveranger developed his design having been inspired by Native American footwear and the moccasins-like shoe traditionally worn by the workers of his fjord-side home. Named the Aurland Moccasin, the loafer became known throughout Europe.
In 1934, Maine-based shoemaker G.H Bass released its version of Tveranger’s shoe and named it Weejun in homage to its Norwegian inspiration and by the mid-century, the Bass Weejun loafer was championed by sartorialists and college students alike. The term ‘Penny Loafer’ is believed to have come from American prep school students who inserted a penny into the diamond-shaped slit on their Bass Weejuns as a fashion statement.
The penny loafer features across the ranges in the current Barker collection, in particular, the Handcrafted, Professional and BarkerTech collections. A true Barker icon is Caruso, a traditional penny loafer that was designed by Albert Barker in the early 1960s and remains unchanged in the collection today. Made on the oldest last still in use in the Barker Earls Barton factory, the number 10 last, Caruso is made from high-grade polished leather uppers on a full leather sole with a hand-stitched apron and saddle.
Other Barker penny loafers of note include the Jevington from the Handcrafted collection which is made from premium calf and grain leathers with a choice of leather or Dainite rubber sole and the Portsmouth, a classic penny loafer in the Professional collection. The Gates penny loafer is a new slip-on shoe that is made on the 493 last from premium calf or suede leather and features BarkerTech technology for improved comfort and fitting.
The Tassel Loafer is a classic slip one style that offers effortless elegance, in particular, the Barker Newborough and Studland styles from the Handcrafted and Professional collections. Newborough is made from premium grain leather whereas Studland is available in calf and suede leather options.
The Horsebit loafer is defined by hardware attached to the upper and is a slip-on design that bridges the gap between dress and casual perfectly. Designed by Aldo Gucci in 1953, the innovative son of company founder Guccio Gucci which has become a legendary design. The Barker Frank horse-bit loafer from the Creative collection is a nod to the original and made on the 69 last from calf or suede leather.