ACL On Ostentatious Loafers


Today A Continuous Lean put up a post entitled “The Enduring Appeal of Ostentatious Loafers.” What does “ostentatious” refer to in this context? Why to bit loafers, Prince Albert slippers, and Belgian Shoes.

Here’s the preppiest passage:

… By the eighties the Gucci loafer came to represent the pretentious bravado of pastel wearing undesirables. From a sartorial standpoint, the shoe sat dormant for a decade plus (although to be fair, it never did lose it’s ironclad influence on unwavering preppy hotbeds like the UES, Palm Beach, and the Cape) before it was embraced by neo-trads who were infatuated by anything that once graced the pages of Take Ivy. While today the Gucci bit loafer is not as ubiquitous as it once was, it still remains a favorite of those men that could argue for hours about their favorite Whit Stilman movie, and are forever in search of a girlfriend named Muffy.

Head over here for the full story. And to appease the less-ostentatious members of our readership, stay tuned til tomorrow, when we’ll present a gallery of vintage Allen Edmonds images sent over by the company. — CC

48 Comments on "ACL On Ostentatious Loafers"

  1. I’ve never been able to take seriously the Prince Albert slipper or Belgian slipper as a man’s shoe, mostly because they’re just so objectively feminine-looking. And the bit loafer looks like a penny loafer that has spent too much time in New Jersey.

  2. Sounds like maybe you’ve spent too much time in New Jersey.

  3. If one projects an innate masculinity, Prince Alberts can be pulled off with alacrity. The key is time and place.

    Here is a cigar-chomping gentleman demonstrating his masterful artistry with a Chicago Typewriter after donning his Price Alberts. Note: video should auto-open at the proper point (50:20)

    And here is a similarly-shod Jack Nicholson enjoying a Cutty on the Rocks in his NYC penthouse. Note: video should auto-open at the proper point (4:33) Warning: most of the audio portion of this video is NSFW

  4. Roy R. Platt | July 15, 2015 at 2:42 pm |

    Many might see wearing Albert slippers in your own house and wearing Albert slippers outside of your own house as being two totally different things, similar to how many might see wearing pyjamas in your own house and wearing pyjamas outside of your own house as being two totally different things.

  5. Bags' Groove | July 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm |

    I now know what Prince Albert slippers are. I obviously need to get out more.
    In defence of snaffle-bit loafers, I’m quite attached to my black suede Guccis (with vital silver snaffle), even if I never wear the things. They’re a bit (if you’ll excuse) like Barbours that you leave hanging up, to go rather mouldy, for years on end.

  6. I just don’t see the appeal of bit loafers, but I don’t disapprove of them. Same for tassels, etc.

    But I’ll admit that I have more than one pair of slippers that I wear with suits, both to work and in more casual settings that usually involve drinking. (Right now, I’m actually wearing a gray linen suit with a pair of olive suede slippers.) But then I live in California, where absolutely nobody seems to notice anything unusual about it. I almost certainly wouldn’t wear them with a suit for work when I’m out east.

  7. @Bags Groove

    Black suede bit loafers? Now I’ve got black suede tassels and also black bit loafers, but black suede bits is definitely outdoing me in the Ivy Chic department!

  8. Bags' Groove | July 15, 2015 at 6:07 pm |

    You need a pair, CC. They look great with a tux, as you chaps call them, but I invariably slip into my Prince Alberts…with purple socks, of course. Well I would have if I’d possessed a family crest, or even knew what Alberts were before this evening. The things one learns from Ivy Style.

  9. Gucci horsebits are la creme de la creme. I recall from previous articles that these are viewed as de rigeur for obstreperous, nouveau immigrants. I reserve them for Chino Friday’s (what proles refer to as Casual Friday’s) and Church. I prefer suede tassels over suede bits. Prince Albert wouldn’t be caught dead outside the manor in his slippers. I agree with Mr. Platt. Belgians are acceptable if you remove the bow.

  10. I’m sorry, but these “horse bit” shoes are strictly for twits. Anyone who wore Gucci shoes in my office (and there were an annoying few) were pretentious guys who were trying to impress folks with how much they spent on their shoes. Maybe these shoes work in California, but on the east coast they scream parvenu.

  11. Roy R. Platt | July 15, 2015 at 11:24 pm |

    For those who might like to see some ostentatious Albert slippers and some other men’s shoes that make bit loafers look rather plain and simple by comparison, here’s what I call “Chris Lowbutton” shoes…….

  12. Minimalist Trad | July 16, 2015 at 12:13 am |

    I’m surprised that those who disapprove of such indisputably ostentatious, pretentious footwear haven’t yet been attacked as being reactionary fuddy-duddies.

  13. Part of the problem with the Gucci loafer is that they’re Italian. Alden makes a knockoff. Much much better. As far as the Alberts and Belgians go they are both definitely gay looking worn outside your own home, the Alberts being both affected AND gay looking. Is it really worth wearing either of these shoes if 99% of the world will think you’re gay? Inside the home different story. By the way, I was on the Ralphie website recently and they actually sell an Albert Slipper with Ralph’s RL initials embroidered on them. Can you imagine wearing an article of clothing with another mans initials embroidered on them? I mean, is that gay or is that gay? I trace popularity of the Belgians over the last 5 years or so solely down to this blogger chap Maxminimus who is not gay but loves them.

  14. Bags' Groove | July 16, 2015 at 3:23 am |

    @ Robert
    A twit? Calling an Englishman a twit is like calling him a silly billy; almost a term of endearment in some circles. You’ll have to come up with something way stronger before my happy demeanour shows any signs of fading. As for being a parvenu, I’ve always much preferred upstart. Using the word parvenu tends to associate one with the toffee-nosed (as we like to call them this side of the pond).

  15. Really. How gay are those shoes? Gay gay gay gay. tisk tisk. I wore a pair, and everyone thought I was gay. My wife divorced me. My boss fired me. My son’s boyfriend tried to sleep with me. All because of those bloody shoes. Now I know why everyone asks about Price Albert’s can. Because of those shoes. That made love to me last night. They were not gentle. Oh, Fortune! Oh, Fate! Why did you make me buy those slippers?!?! And the Belgians! My god! What they did with that bottle of Rochefort 12! How will I carry on? How will I survive? Who am I now? Why oh why wasn’t I warned? Why did no one tell me by calling a pair of shoes 6 times in one paragraph? Oh well. Off to P-Town I suppose.

  16. nothing worse than when Swype derails your snarky comment at a bigot.

  17. Bags' Groove | July 16, 2015 at 4:36 am |

    @ Bobby
    Ah, but never forget that P’town was also the home of a true tough guy: Norman Mailer. Incidentally, I just asked my wife of a hundred years if she thought my Guccis were ostentatious, or even that word that we dare not utter in pc-enforced Blighty.
    Answer: not at all, you obstreperous, pretentious, nouveau, silly billy, parvenu, twit, fuddy-duddy!

  18. When a more deviant mood overtakes me, I wear my tawdry guccis and ask my wife to talk dirty: “Call me nouveau, baby!”

  19. Mitchell S. | July 16, 2015 at 9:52 am |

    Alan Flusser, the best-dressed man in America, is seldom photographed these days without wearing a pair of monogrammed suede Prince Albert slippers with a jacket and tie.

  20. Interesting about the “gay” connotation: I always associated horse-bits with the kind of hero who hit the bars with a gold neck chain, Ron Burgundy “Anchorman” hair and cologne, a pick-up line, and more than likely a request to cover his tab until Friday. Lots of polyester involved.

  21. riciphaust | July 16, 2015 at 10:49 am |

    Wow. What a bunch of pretentious crap from wannabe WASPS. Anyone who dresses exclusively any one style without defining their own is nothing more than a sartorial child. Guccis are classic and damning them as “gay” or “dago” or to imply such… well, your tailor should stick a pin in your nuts.

  22. Indeed. When I was a kid, we were members of a club where you wore white to play tennis and men wore jackets in the dining area. Gucci bit loafers seemed to be everywhere (my dad being a notable exception). These were pretty much just old-school New Englanders, and I don’t think that anyone thought their fellow members were either gay or Italian because of their choice of footwear. And I’m fairly sure that that was also my first exposure to Belgian shoes. By college, most fraternity brothers were still wearing Weejuns. I believe that Guccis and Belgians were what you wore once you had a real job.

  23. You guys are all part of the high end clothing hobby fraternity. If you wear Albert slippers out in public most people will think you’re gay, or at least affected. It calls attention to itself, and not in a positive way. Go ahead, no skin off my back.

  24. …..and may I add, The Gucci horse it is not gay, but it is Italian. My point only being that Italian is the antithesis of the trad/Ivy ethos. Sheesh.

  25. Whenever this topic comes up it always invokes strong reactions. And whenever that happens, reason goes down a few notches.

    It’s one thing to not like the shoe personally. I mean, I don’t like longwings or gunboats. But it’s another thing entirely to deny the shoe’s place in the genre. It’s certainly not as definitive as the Weejun, tassel loafer (or longwing, for that matter), but it’s there:

    Image from this post:

  26. Mitchell, all due respect to Alan Flusser, but he hasn’t been the best dressed man in America in quite a long time. The guy needs to be placed in solitary confinement and forced to read his own damn books. I wouldn’t put too much stock in him wearing Alberts in public. I’ve seen pictures of him in some pretty bizarro get-ups.

  27. @Lucky,

    I don’t see a reason why foreign origin is antithetical to what you’d expect from east coast preps. Those tennis shirts made famous by m. Lacoste came from France, etc.

    And I find myself in violent agreement with your assessment of Mr. Flusser’s recent sense of style.

  28. Christian, fair point. Personally, I go back and forth on the Guccis. The Italian connection goes against the Ivy grain in my view, but the horse thing does tend to bring it back some. I think therein lay the strong feelings from the opposite camps. Richard Merkin once said that be bought a pair of Gucci loafers as he thought it was something he should own, but he could never quite bring himself to wear them, or words to that effect.

  29. We should do a roundup of things in the genre not from England/Scotland. Including fabrics such as madras from India and batik from Indonesia.

  30. For the naysayers out there–if you hate the shoes so much here’s a revelation: don’t buy them.

    Sorry to burst the “Ivy purist” bubble, but Prince Alberts, Belgian Shoes, and Gucci loafers are here to stay. They’re permanently ingrained in the WASP/preppy/trad/whatever sartorial culture whether people like it or not. A few months ago I was walking down Madison Avenue and saw a group of young guys (probably in their late 20s and in finance) sporting navy blue suits tie-less under Barbour jackets–on several of their feet were black Gucci loafers. I suppose the younger generation has been “corrupted” then too.

    Last weekend I wore a pair of velvet prince Alberts with khakis, purple socks, a ribbon belt, and a university stripe oxford, a bold move for me since I only reserve them for black tie events/house-wear. I’ve got a pair of Guccis that I wear on a regular basis, the final step is to acquire some Belgians…

  31. AI: did you leave the house in that getup?

  32. On Italian stuff: could one find Valstarino jackets easily in the US in the 50s and 60s? I’m sure they were around, but I suspect you’d have had to get them at boutiques in the larger cities, and were hence relatively rare.

  33. Ward Wickers | July 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm |

    I’ve always liked the Gucci horse bit loafer. And, it’s never bothered me that they were Italian. I’ve always thought it silly that that things had to be British/Scottish or made in the USA. There are lots of inconsistencies in that regard in the genre (and in the culture), so why get so attached to that idea?

    I just came back from the Newport, Rhode Island Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. Newport is a very preppy, seaport town, so it didn’t surprise me to see lots of Gucci horse bits walking around. I did think it odd, however, to see men wearing them at the tennis event (women seemed to know better). Where most were wearing trainers or sandals, Gucci looked out of place. It was blazingly hot this afternoon. Even without socks—and maybe especially without socks, I would have been extremely uncomfortable in my loafers.

    Maybe you disagree, but I think there are times when it is much better and a lot more practical to be a little casual than to always have to be just so. A sporting event is one of them. It’s not a garden party, after all.

  34. John Carlos | July 16, 2015 at 9:50 pm |

    For my money the Alden horse bit loafer is the answer.They are comfortable, the price is right, and they are American trad.

  35. I’ll cop to owning more than my share of bit loafers (Ferragamo, Gucci). But for the office, when it’s suit and tie territory, Allen Edmunds Oxfords work every time. I don’t feel a need to confine myself to things that only qualify as “strictly Trad”.

  36. Hony Soit | July 17, 2015 at 1:08 am |

    Next, they’ll want us to believe that pink polo shirts aren’t gay.

  37. So, trying to be open-minded after reading all these comments, I went and looked at the Alden horsebit, hoping they’d be a little more traddy, and less less Jersey than the Guccis, and the Aldens didn’t turn me on either, but I finally realized why: something about them, and in particular the bit itself, reminds me strongly of the Aigner sandals all the women in my family wore in the 70s/80s. That, and the leather looks like soft, and sort of ”crimped’ at the stitching, in the way that dress shoes, and even penny loafers don’t.

  38. “…British/Scottish or made in the USA. There are lots of inconsistencies in that regard in the genre (and in the culture), so why get so attached to that idea?”–Ward Wickers

    Yes to the larger culture, but I wonder how much within the, as you put it, “genre” (that is “Ivy”). The more I think about it–and God knows I try not to spend too much time thinking about it–the more I’m convinced that the wear-it-till-it-falls-apart-British Isles-thrifty-New England connection is actually rather spot on. Recent interaction with a few older fellows (think 80s) who have held steady with this style (insofar as anything resembling adherence can be maintained) reveals a bit of reverse snobbery about stuff that, unfair or not, is shunned as a tad (or more) in the direction of the vulgar. If history is any indication, bit loafers will continue to attract a following among cosmopolitan metropolitans (and all wannabe versions), but, like the shiny new Range Rove or too-well-kept country house, there’s something about it that’s, well…just…eew. We can guess a persistent stomach turner for the musty-dusty-tweedy, cracked-Weejun crowd.

  39. To add a Southern perspective, bit loafers are alive and well down this way. Being from South Carolina and being in the legal profession I see them often on grey-haired attorneys who probably wear them because they are expensive and comfortable. Among the younger “in-crowd” in places like Charleston, the popular bit loafer is a overly ostentatious knock-off loafer that is sold at places such as M.Dumas and sons that are rather gaudy. I’ve always felt the Gucci has a certain elegance to it. But on other brands that use oversized, squared off bits, it becomes gaudy quite quickly.

  40. Flusser never fails to flummox… but because of his writings I find myself wondering if I’m just missing something…

  41. Ward Wickers | July 17, 2015 at 10:52 am |

    “Yes to the larger culture, but I wonder how much within the, as you put it, “genre” (that is “Ivy”).”

    Example: Nantucket Reds are French (OMG!).

  42. Ah, yes. The (in…)famous Nantucket Reds-Bit loafer combo. Add Barbour jacket and emblem (whales, South Carolina state flag, whales, pheasants, whales, golf clubs, whales…) belt, and it’s party time!

    Geez. How many guys wore this stuff way back when? Makes one long for the Weejuny-Tweedy-OCBD’d Heyday.

  43. Ward Wickers | July 17, 2015 at 11:14 am |

    Sorry, didn’t complete the post above …

    And, the ‘choice’ Reds from Murrays are now made in China. So, originally French made in China is pretty inconsistent with Brit/Scot.

    Perhaps this is missed, but when people are decidedly snobbish over this idea that it should only be worn if it comes from Britain or made in the USA, while wearing Reds, Gucci, Lacoste and a Madras jacket while driving a Volvo, it’s just plain silly in my judgement. As Bag’s Grove said above, “twit”, as in silly-billy, comes readily to mind.

  44. Ward Wickers | July 17, 2015 at 11:16 am |


    Well, it’s summertime. It’s what is worn by this crowd when school is out.

  45. “this crowd” ?

  46. Transplanted Charlestonian | July 17, 2015 at 11:57 am |

    @JBK: Your mention of M. Dumas and Sons brought back fond memories. Mendel Dumas was a Lithuanian immigrant, and a fine Jewish gentleman who made a great contribution to supplying Charlestonians with Trad/Ivy garb over the years.

  47. Charlottesville | July 17, 2015 at 12:30 pm |

    S.E. – Thanks for the 1968 Washington & Lee yearbook link. It looked remarkably the same in the early 1980s, although coat and tie were no longer required for classes. However, while most of the chaps appear to be tweeded and khakied, among the photos there is at least one fellow wearing what looks like patchwork madras trousers. These are still available today at the Alvin-Dennis shop just across from the W&L campus (and also pictured in the yearbook) or at least they were this past summer when I last visited. I note that there is one W&L alumnus (Class of ’51) who does not quite fit the Ivy/Trad/Preppie mold, although undeniably quite a snappy dresser: .

  48. Italian is more Trad than Jewish, I’d say. At least Italians/Greeks, etc. are European and, equally important, Christians.

    That being said: Jews are white, too, and they have left their mark on the culture of Ivy/Trad/Preppy (J. Press, TOPH, R. Lauren, etc.).

    I might also point out that Greeks/Italians were Christians 1,500 years before there was even such a thing as a Protestant (not to mention, they were Christians *long* before North Western Europe, especially the Greeks). Talk about “trad”.

    If we are talking about European-Americans, Italians fit that description. It’s idiotic to act like all Italian-Americas are the same kind of person.

    In these days of multiculturalism, liberalism, Hollywood-values and the destruction of genuine American traditions and values, can we afford to be so ethnocentric? I think not.

    How many of you have a pure, untainted, *genuine* upper-middle class New England WASP pedigree? Attend prep schools (like I did)? I am sure not very many of you at all.

    European-Americans must unite or fade.

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