Justin Jeffers Tackles Bit Loafers (and makes them better, and you can afford them) Part I

Justin Jeffers throwing himself at a problem.

You want a sculptor making your shoes.

Justin Jeffers is the founder of Jay Butler shoes.  That’s the site, go there.  It is a collection of fantastic surprises.  Let me keep going.

I spent some time on the phone, texting, emailing Justin.  In one of our first calls, we discovered that we had corporate turnaround in common, and there was a lot of industry jargon being tossed back and forth as we compared consulting gigs, corporate valuations, time management, life planning.  Jeffers is engaged and thinking about a family, I have been both.  We hit it off, and when we rang off I had a picture in my head.  The guy knows Ivy, he plays rugby, he has fixed companies, it is amazing we hadn’t bumped into each other earlier.  I imagined an iteration of one of the guys I know, a little competitive, a little theatrical when they meet you, efficient in dress and conversation thereafter.   I asked him if I could profile him here, he agreed but it took a little twisting.  He’s a humble guy, too, so I kinda thought I was going to bump into a version of myself maybe 15 years ago.  Nope, he is Ivy’s Jason Mamoa, but with an artist’s sensibilities.


Ivy’s Jason Mamoa if Jason Mamoa could rehabilitate companies while sculpting.

Bit loafers fascinate me.  They are Ivy’s eccentricities.  The history of the Bit Loafer is this in a nutshell:  everyone was wearing loafers, it’s the 50’s.  Gucci comes to New York and gets the idea right away – these loafers are, as Bruce Boyer puts it, the first shoes to bridge work shoes and casual.  But Gucci is bored with them, and puts bits on them.   The history of the world is fraught with stories of bored men getting a dopamine hit with a horsebit, but this particular iteration reaches heretofore unseen commercial heights, and before you know it, the bit loafer is a global shoe.

Jay Butler’s Millbank Loafer


Wait, what?  You don’t think Bit Loafers are Ivy?  Ask this guy:

PLEASE don’t drag politics into this, but if Bush Sr. wore it, it was Ivy.

Jay Butler produces loafers.  I have three pair.  They are remarkable on three counts.  First, the quality.  The leather is as fine as you can find anywhere, any price.  I am not at all into shoe production, Jeffers REALLY is.  I asked him about how he got these shoes to fit the way they do, to feel the way they do, with these materials.  Here’s what he said:

“The leather we use for the lining leather is superb and very supple, designed to absorb sweat and reduce blisters.  I told the factory that I wanted the foot to be the lobster and the leather to be the melted butter.”

Nailed it, Justin.  Second, the design.  Jeffers’ design is spot on Trad, but it looks better than other loafers.  I couldn’t figure out exactly why, so I went to the web site and discovered that the sole is a scootch (did I spell that right?) thinner, the heel is proportioned accordingly (and just right, I might add) and the vamp is a little lower, so you see a little more of the foot (which, in addition to making the shoe look a little better, actually makes it feel more like a moccasin).  Don’t know what the vamp of a shoe is?  I didn’t either.  Here:

For those of us who are visual learners.

The materials and build, as good as you can buy.  The design – a take on the loafer that improves it in terms of both form and function.  So I am willing to pay, man.  I have owned Gucci loafers, bought them at Nordstrom from a personal shopper just before I got sick, paid like $800 for them.  In retrospect, that was probably a sign I was getting sick, but that is another post.  Think I paid $800 for them.  I have three pair of Jay Butler shoes, so the math in my head was $2,400.  I won’t ruin the website for you here, but suffice to say that got all three pair for less than I paid the otherwise visually impaired personal shopper at Nordstrom for one pair of Gucci’s AND I got a belt from Jay Butler too, and was still under my cap.

It’s as if a clothes designer and a sculptor decided to collaborate on a classic.   So I asked Jeffers how he got into the business:

The simple answer is that I love shoes.  The three dimensionality afforded by shoes vs. other pieces of apparel is more sculptural.  It also goes back to how I got into menswear, which was through sneakers – this was back around 2008.  And I love loafers.  They are casual yet dressy.  And they can be worn with just about anything.  There is also a non-chalant ease to them that I favor and that cannot be matched by lace-ups or boots.  Bit loafers and penny loafers are the staples of the loafer world.  In addition, I grew up wearing sneakers and loafers, not boots.  So l (or at least where my market was).”  

Me this Saturday in the Millbank Bit Loafer (brown with gold bit)

Part II has more Jeffers, and a bigger discussion about the shoes, but really, go check the site out.  They are running a promotion now for Black Friday too I think.



11 Comments on "Justin Jeffers Tackles Bit Loafers (and makes them better, and you can afford them) Part I"

  1. I used to say that only porn magazine publishers, pimps, and strip club owners wore bit loafers, but now I have converted to the Church of the Snaffle Bit.

    Last week I purchased my first pair of black bit loafers and I am thrilled. Loafers are the most versatile shoes that a guy can have; they can be dressed up or dressed down with blue jeans and an OCBD.

    Most importantly, chicks dig them. They are edgy, sophisticated, and spiffy. Another bonus is that anyone wearing bit loafers will stand out in a crowd of sneakers, sweatpants, and athleisure.

  2. Of course, no widths are mentioned. Those of us with 3E +
    will have to buy the high- end name brands which still offer

    Please read the comment below yours. And I am telling you, I bought Gucci, don’t waste your money. If they have your size, try them. – JB

  3. Sack, scroll to the bottom after the shoes that tie and you’ll find some options for your wide feet. Unfortunately, there are none for my 14B or 15AA flat feet, which is something I have tried and failed to get used to for about 50 years.

  4. I really want to like bit loafers, and I know they look good on many, but I just can’t bring myself to buy a pair. Sometimes you know when something just isn’t “you.” I wear penny loafers most days and they suit me fine. Looks like Jay Butler makes some excellent examples of those, too. …And they don’t cost a whole ton more than Weejuns, which is impressive considering the apparent upgrade in quality.

  5. @Nevada:

    No offense, but Weejuns are cheugy.

  6. Haha, thanks Mitchell. …I’ve seen the term around but had to look it up just to be sure I got it. I’ll consider it a point of pride. … It won’t be long before the gen-z’ers get labeled dorky and old by the cohort coming up after them. I wonder what term they’ll invent for it.

  7. Don’t like ’em — but I run with a crowd who occasionally wear them. Occasionally. I can’t mock/ridicule too much because I occasionally wear shoes with tassels, which are as nonfunctional and ornamental as a horse bit. So.

  8. How about bit loafers on a boat? Sox or no?

  9. I’m with Nevada on this one: Justin Jeffers looks like he’s doing something really interesting and high quality, and I wish him every success. I further agree that if H.W. wore them, you can’t really contest their bona fides.

    But I just can’t pull the trigger on bit loafers: to me, they’ll always look somewhat feminine. And when the vamp is lowered, even more so. Like those Belgian shoes worn by certain UES dandies. Or opera pumps, or those velvet slippers: I admire them, and some of the embroidered ones can be clever. Just not on my feet, thanks.

  10. I always felt a bit (pun intended) self conscious when I wore Gucci loafers. There was a time when I wore Guccis because I saw my peers were wearing them. I purged all my Guccis after putting the corporate world in the rear view mirror and going off on my own. Today I often wear Ferragamo loafers w/o the pretentious horse bit. I’m thinking seriously about getting a pair of Jay Butlers to check them out.

  11. Seth Collins | November 29, 2021 at 9:49 pm |

    I admire his dedication to his craft. You love to see it. I, for one, have always enjoyed the bit loafer. Mostly because it gives the shoe a bit more of a pop. Damn Italians…

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