Penny Loafers And Alligator Belts

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This morning Ivy Style awoke to a tweet from Warren Bingham giving us a head’s up about a great article in the latest issue of Charlotte Magazine. Entitled “Penny Loafers And Alligator Belts” and written by Cole Waddell, it recounts his time in the early ’60s working in the university department at men’s store Tate-Brown.

Here’s a snippet:

The University department sold suits, blazers, sport coats, neckties, and the essentials for campus wear: Gold Cup socks, sweaters, London Fog outerwear, khaki pants, Gant button-down shirts, madras shirts, alligator belts, and, of course, Bass Weejuns penny loafers. This was many years before college males adopted blue jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps, and running shoes. Looking back at old issues of The Yackety Yack, the UNC yearbook, the men look neat and well-dressed, with their short hair and campus wear.

The style of dress was initially called Ivy League fashion, supposedly the preferred style at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. It would eventually be labeled “preppy.” Years later, ads for Polo Ralph Lauren evoke memories of those clothes.

At college, I wore penny loafers, until one day I saw a classmate from New York wearing a different type of loafer. His had a metal piece across the top. I didn’t know him well enough to ask about them, and it being the 1960s, I didn’t have a camera on a cell phone to sneak a picture of them. Without a photograph, I tried to describe the shoes as I asked around Charlotte. My inquiries were futile: People gave me strange looks and a few snarky suggestions. A few years later, I would learn that my school chum had good taste in shoes; he had been wearing the basic, classic Gucci horsebit loafer. Made in Italy. Sold in the Gucci store on Fifth Avenue in New York. I remember my delight when I obtained my first pair years later.

It’s a great read, so head over here to check it out. — CC

7 Comments on "Penny Loafers And Alligator Belts"

  1. Unfortunately the illustrator got the loafers completely wrong.

  2. “This was many years before college males adopted blue jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps, and running shoes.”

    I guess one could actually tell the difference between college students and unskilled manual laborers in those days.

  3. My big sister went to UNC-G in the early/mid 60’s but spent much of her time, especially weekends, at Chapel Hill. I remember her saying then that it was the first, maybe the only, place she had seen where the guys cared more about their clothes than the girls. And for big weekends, she said the guys actually changed clothes more than the girls.

  4. Understanding that this is America and you can wear flip-flops with a suit if you wish, I believe penny loafers with a suit don’t hunt. Jeeves, fetch me my lace ups!

  5. I enjoyed reading Mr Waddell’s essay on those long ago days.

  6. Steedappeal | April 28, 2015 at 7:18 pm |

    Nice article about the good old Ivy days. Not sure if the gent in the pic is a salesman or customer? If the former, he would not survive the current trend of Ownership micromanaging his working life: no sitting, no reading, no socializing with customers and constantly in fear of losing his job due to unreal productivity demands. Trust me, I speak from past experience!

  7. A very good article by Cole Waddell, which brought to mind a similar personal experience. Like Cole, I too matriculated to Chapel Hill in 1963, straight from Charlottesville (yes, some called me a traitor). Wearing Weejuns and khaki pants on my arrival, I quickly added Nettleton tassel loafers and slacks to my wardrobe. Later during my time in Chapel Hill I added scotch-grained, kilted tasssel loafers, by Footjoy, courtesy of Maurice Julian. A few years after graduation, I visited a fraternity brother who was working in NYC. Like Cole, I was intrigued by the classy loafers he was wearing with the brass horse bit across the instep. Knowing him well enough to ask, I learned they were Gucci loafers and immediately had to add them to my wardrobe. To this date, they represent the finest in styling of casual shoes.

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