The history of the loafer has several origins firstly in London where bespoke shoe company Wildsmith Shoes designed a slip-on shoe for King George VI as a casual house shoe. The design by Raymond Lewis Wildsmith was called ‘The Wildsmith Loafer’ and has subsequently been sold by other London shoe firms under the name ‘The Harrow’.
Secondly, the loafer can be traced back to Norwegian farmers where Aurland-based shoemaker Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger introduced his first design in 1908. Aged 13, Tveranger travelled to North America to study the craft of shoemaking before returning to Norway aged 20.
In 1930, Tveranger developed a design inspired by Native American footwear and a moccasin-like shoe traditionally worn by the workers of his fjord-side home. The ‘Aurland Moccasin’ became known throughout Europe and visiting Americans brought the shoes home as souvenirs.
In 1934 Maine-based shoemaker G.H. Bass launched its version of Tveranger’s shoe, named the Weejun in homage to its Norwegian origins.
By the mid-century the loafer was championed by US men’s bibles Esquire and Apparel Arts, worn by sartorialists and college students alike. It’s believed the term ‘ Penny Loafer’ came from American prep school students who wishing to make a fashion statement, took to inserting a penny into the diamond-shaped slit on their Weejuns. The inserted coins would be enough money to make an emergency phone call at the time.
The Penny Loafer today remains a menswear icon, championed by the Ivy League of yesteryear, its classic and refined styling makes it effortless to wear both for formal and/or casual occasions.
Explore the Barker Loafer collection here.