March 21, 2013
The Norwegian farmers, America in the 1920’s and the ‘moonwalk’, nothing in common, you say? Well history has its own astonishing opinion.
We travel back to Norway in the 1930’s. Nils Tveranger, after having spent seven years in North America, had just returned to Norway and head brimming with ideas, he introduced a new design called the Aurland moccasin, resembling the design on the moccasin like shoes worn by the local Aurland populace and farmers of that region. What started off as exports within Europe caught the fancy of the Americans who championed its cause and adopted the style.
The term ‘loafers ’ is credited to Esquire magazine which featured photographs of Norwegian farmers in a cattle loafing area. Always quick on the uptake, a bootmaker in 1934 Wilton, Maine named GH Bass started making loafers under the name of Weejuns, adding a distinctive strip of leather across the saddle with a diamond cut. There was no turning back and the shoe gained such immense popularity in America that it was and continues to be a significant part of a men’s casual shoe wardrobe, never having gained the same degree of ubiquity in Europe or native Norway. Having been worn by women for a brief period, it now remains a predominantly male footwear bastion.
School students took to adding a penny into the slit of their Weejuns and the name ‘Penny Loafers’ was born and has stuck, ever since. This style was considered classic and tasteful and was preferred by lawyers in the west. The Loafers were steadily influenced by the continent of their origin and were sculpted into a more elegant and lighter design, with lower cut slip-ons and lighter hues. America used this new style to pair with suits, although the Europeans were still not caught on by the trend.
In the roaring 60’s Gucci created a self styled pair of loafers which spread out over the Atlantic and were worn by the business men and power brokers of 1970 and 1980, Wall Street.
Returning to its original model in the twenty first century, a revival in a more rugged version with Moccasins and espadrilles regained its previous popularity.
Michael Jackson lent an almost ubiquitous air to the shoes by informally endorsing them and even performing his legendary moonwalk , in a pair.
In today’s multifarious day and age, Loafers have gained the attention of the worldwide populace and are deeply infused into the stratum of menswear, available in a variety of designs, colours, fabrics and sizes these shoes embody ease of use, modish appurtenance and sheer felicity in convenience and comfort. Its sheer versatility is in essence, its greatest saving grace and consequently ensures its continued verve and vitality, for generations to come.