It is MIGHTY hard to not wear socks with loafers and not veer too prep. No knock against prep, but if you are moving the needle in the Ivy direction and you want to wear loafers and no socks, you probably default to the traditional penny loafer, with its unfortunately named beefroll, wide slot for pennies, and traditional sole. I know I did. Looking back, I realize now how fraught that was, how close to a gingham spread collar shirt with shorts I was. But I see it now.
It is trying too hard. Ivy is irreverent, but always with at least one hand on the wheel. No socks with traditional loafers looks to me like wearing a tie with no shirt. I mean, you CAN do it. But you oughtn’t. The traditional penny loafer is a fall/winter shoe, you want wheat socks, or white socks.
By the way, the penny loafer is so named because… back in the day a phone call on a pay phone was two cents. If you amortize my cell bill, my daughter’s calls come out to about two cents each as well, but only because there is a monthly tally of over a million of them. Still, it is nice to see a tradition continue, right?
But that form. The vamp, the wink towards formality. The penny loafer in structure and aesthetic is exactly pure Ivy, always a dose of tradition and formality, but done by integrating the other values, dignity, appreciation for the value of work and thought, etc. How do you leverage that form, the fulcrum between relaxed and appropriate, without using too much product to slick your hair back?
I found the answer. The Jay Butler Loafer. You can check it out here. (that’s the one I have, it comes in different widths and colors) (and that’s a link, thank you very much – I don’t always include links in the Ivy Notes pieces because by the time you switch back and forth between the four or five things we cover in those, you get Ivy fatigue)
Why is this the answer? Three reasons.
I was afraid of the sole. It is a thinner sole. I had a pair of Sperry driving moccasins that lasted maybe a couple of weeks before I wore the sole out? There is no such thing as an attractive picture of the sole of a shoe after three weeks of wear, so for this, you must take my word. The soles are thin but sturdy, you do not feel like you are walking in a shoe you can’t walk in. Justin Jeffers, the founder of Jay Butler shoes, is as much architect as he is anything else, and he has found a way to make a lighter weight loafer wear like one with soles three times as thick.
Second. No socks is, not to put too fine a point on it, as much of a challenge for the inside of a shoe as the ground is for the outside. Perhaps moreso. Here is what the inside of my loafers look like after pretty much every day wear for three weeks.
I cannot tell you how, but I can tell you THAT Jeffers has built a non-synthetic loafer that looks like it is going to outlive me.
Third, the design. I have discovered after about three days that there is no such thing as a photo of me trying to show you shoes in different clothes that isn’t… off putting. But the design is versatile. I know Jeffers (smartly) markets these shoes as more casual, and of course, jeans, khakis, 100%. But they also go well with slacks. Here. None of these came out good, but this gives you a sense of what they look like with slacks:
While Jeffers does hold the secret of how these shoes hold up so well close to the vest, he does give you a few tips as to why these shoes are so unusual. They are not constructed like loafers, they are constructed like moccasins. THAT’s why they feel the way they do. There is a way they are stitched, and they are handmade by Cordwainers (just buy them because Jeffers knows the word “Cordwainers”) in Leon, Mexico. Wanna see how they are made? Click here.
Finally, let’s talk money. These shoes cost $195. They are gonna last, that you know. But what you may not know is what kind of savings that is. Valesca’s Meister (with that jagged tongue thing?) – $295. The Rake’s Barbenera (closest comparison I could find in look, but still does not compare in feel… Jay Butler are moccasins for crying out loud) – $450. That’s more than double, if the math isn’t speaking to you yet. Gucci Penny Loafers – if you shop hard, you can find them at $880. Jay Butler… $195. Did I mention, moccasins?
Personally, I think the sock and seasonal issue depends a lot on what part of the country you live in. But purely speaking, is Ivy really even Ivy outside of the Northeast?
Hi! Sure it is. What would you call it anywhere else? – JB
For some reason I have always felt that when it comes to loafers, the “beefroll”, is just another thing that one can live without. Although I do like the look of the shoes, beefroll notwithstanding, I wonder how difficult it would be to replace those soles when they eventually wear out.
I will let you know, but I have a feeling it won’t be for a long time. 🙂 – JB
@JB: American Traditional. Easy enough.
I hear you, but I dunno. Ivy is easy enough too 🙂 – JB
The Jay Butler loafers look like a perfect casual shoe for warmer seasons. Thanks for commenting on the sole — I checked them out again the other day when you brought them up in an earlier post, and had misgivings around how thin the sole looked. I tend to take my Blake-stitched shoes in to get a rubber tread applied to the bottom for grip and weather resistance (very necessary here in the Pacific Northwest) and figure the same approach would ensure a longer life for the soles of these. The vamp is a little low for me, but I keep coming back to these shoes. They’re officially on my list.
Hey Nevada! Try one pair. I hear you about the sole, but I beat the stuffing out of these for three weeks and they almost didn’t wear at all. And thank you for the tone of your notes all the time. It is uplifting. – JB
Just bought the Cromwell penny loafer in Burgundy pull up leather, and they are striking shoes. Very comfortable, the leather is beautiful, and they match with everything, including slacks, as JB points out.
Right? They break in really well, too. – JB
No, just dear-god no. Ugh and whoa is this some low-vamped, Updated Traditional territory.
Pay a few extra bucks for these:
This may be, what’s the industry term… an overreaction? We are comparing apples and oranges. – JB
I’m just not feeling it, but we all have our things. Here’s mine. I love:
We do all have our things, you are right. I didn’t make my point well. I am thinking you have both. The Butler, by the way, is half the price of yours. But I wouldn’t wear yours where I would wear the Butler, and vice versa. I like the shoes you pointed out too! It’s just not either or. – JB
— you gotta be takin’ the piss here, JB.
You ever write something and say to yourself, oh my god that is so not me, I have to go back and fix it, and then you lose two days to trying to get good pictures of whatever you are writing about because climate change is real and it only rains ever, then you finally get a good day and you take pictures and then you realize, man, it is creepy these shots of me sticking my feet out, that is even more non-John than slacks, and you have to rewrite everything because now you don’t have the pictures to make your point with, and then you are like, maybe the internet has pictures but then it doesn’t, and it is getting so close to deadline that you realize 98% of what you wrote is good, and you feel like you are really doing a service to the reader by going into detail about what, at the end of the day is a top-tier loafer that fits and feels like a moccasin but is priced better than most sneakers, and you forget to back and swap out “slacks” – you ever have that? – JB
Worried about the vamp as well.
In what way? – JB
I have four pair of loafers even though I don’t much care for loafers. It’s embarrassing.
One person’s embarrassing is another person’s admirable. – JB
Wouldn’t go as far as to say they’re not “Ivy” but I don’t really understand the appeal of beefroll loafers unless you are wearing denim or a more rugged outfit. Too hard to sensibly pair with a suit.
Hi Dennis. I agree about the suit thing, but more importantly just wanted to say hi. – JB
I don’t like beef rolls and wear a 14B, so I’m not a Jay Butler candidate. I’ve got the Allen Edmonds Patriots. They’re not Aldens, but they’re better than Johnston & Murphy and similar brands.
As for socklessness, I have no idea and don’t really care whether that’s Ivy or Prep. I prefer Trad anyway. For me, the decision to go sockless comes down to the formality of the accompanying clothes. I’m not a fan of a suit with no socks. To me, it looks incomplete, like you forgot to put your socks on. Otherwise, it’s hard to get me into socks anytime the temperature is above 60.
Agree with all of the above, only difference is my number is 40. – JB
“This may be, what’s the industry term… an overreaction? We are comparing apples and oranges. “– JB
But, well, we’re not. Because we’re talking value. We’re always, always talking value, yes? — Long-term. For the long haul. “Buy once and repair repeatedly.”
I’m with whiskeydent: a big ole “Uh, HELL, No” to beefrolls …and put on some socks.
I don’t have the heart to walk you through Take Ivy, but if you are so inclined, it is beefroll central. So there’s that. And I will make you this deal. I am wearing these loafers like they were the only shoes I own right now. You see what they look like after three weeks, I will show you after three months, and at the end of the summer. Jeffers is no joke and these things are meticulously designed. Fair? – JB
Even worse that socklessness is the the sockless-and-bowtie thing. Somebody just said “oh, but that’s very Charleston.”
Again, or first, depending on the order you are reading this stuff, (god I gotta find a solution for that) – take a look at Take Ivy. Socklessness is a thing. To be fair, sockless and bowtie (of which I am guilty) is not a thing. But if you are willing to wear a bowtie, I am more than happy to give you a pass on no socks. – JB
J&M is one of the worst companies in existence now, but once upon a time, one of the very best. I put a lot of miles on my 1986 vintage SKI-MOC II in burgundy for my tasseled pair. New soles and heels about five years ago. See pg. 27 here:
My Allen Edmonds Kenwood are my most handsome pair, but not as well built as the old J&Ms.
Oh, sockless-and-bowtie is a thing. Every Southern fraternity fella (okay, most; okay, many) has discovered this humdinger of a look. It’s hideous in a way that only people with actual taste can understand (yeah, I did), but that’s never stopped the South from being fully-and-totally the South (yeah, I did). But why am I not surprised it might be equally Westchester Coountyish (I know–I did it, again).
On behalf of what is dangerously approximating half the country, I ask you to slow your beefroll. Yeah, I did. – JB
No scolding, JB. By now you surely know when you’re nudging a reaction. (we’ve all seen plenty of Take Ivy).
Please see above. Slow your beefroll is a mantra. – JB
Ok ok ok, so I hear you when you say that, to you, going sockless with the trad penny loafers is trying to hard. I do. TO ME, though… I dig the sockless look heavy with the penny loafers- hail, with my dirty white Vans, too! To me, it’s exactly the opposite of trying to hard. It looks relaxed, casual, and delightfully informal, which to me is one of the reasons why I like the Ivy look. And like someone else mentioned, Take Ivy has more than a few examples of sockless loafer-wearers (and…hoodies), both with long pants and shorts. #ToMe
You know what? You are right, now that I think about it more. I was wrong. There are definitely people who can pull it off. I am just not one of them. But you are totally right. – JB
Wasn’t “Slow your beefroll” an early ZZ Top song?
Try these out from my home state of Maine. For not much more you get horween leather and a more substantial sole. If only the old Bass Weejuns were still made in Maine. The OG of the beef roll. https://www.rancourtandcompany.com/products/beefroll-penny-loafers-color-8-chromexcel
I’m waiting for someone to wear thick white socks with a yellowish tinge with loafers, then triumphantly justify it by pointing to a picture of a Princetonian from the 60’s.
I guess I am the first to vote “yes beefroll, yes socks”.
Loafers with no beefroll look too dainty.
No socks – when I see that my first thought is how foul those shoes must smell.
All other comments aside, JB you look distinguished in that pic. The items work well together.
Thanks man! – JB
Collar roll + beefroll = perfection.
I think the Great Sockless Debate might merit its own post. As might Beefroll vs. Flat Strap.
@AndrewK247, when it comes to going sockless, I don’t know about everyone else, but that’s what talcum powder is for! Wearing shoes sans socks AND sans powder is wild.
‘Going sockless’ with leather shoes is gross. Lightweight wool socks is the way to go. Wool contains lanolin, and, when it comes to moisture-absorbing/wicking, nothing’s better. (far better than cotton). My father, military through-and-through, almost never washed his socks: “hang ’em after a long day, then, the next morning, pop ’em.” This works–brilliantly.
Washing/drying wool is silliness–removes the lanolin. And it shrinks.
If you insist on the sockless look, do yourself a favor and invest in this:
Sir, I take the exact 180 degree view. NOT washing your socks is gross (all due respect and thanks for service) and going sockless in leather shoes is only gross if your feet have… an issue. – JB
Bless your heart!
Bless your heart too!
I’m a Rancourt fan through and through, along with Alden, C&J, and EG. In the marketing shots above the leather looks…suboptimal. Plastic-y. Value doesn’t necessitate a low entry point, as S.E. noted. Are these “moccasins” re-soleable? Is three weeks now some sort of bellwether for reliability and toughness?
Mexico’s not generally thought of as a second Northampton so far as shoes are concerned, though I am sure there are exceptions. Assuming ability to re-sole (dependent on the welt) and leather quality these could be a good option. Cheap, sure. Value remains to be seen.
“Slow your beefroll” may be the greatest bon mot to ever come out of this whole dang site.
And, if we’re keeping a ledger, put me in the beefroll + sturdy leather sole + high vamp + jagged tongue column.
Trust me, JB —
—your feet have an issue.
they’re human feet.
Cover your ankles, man. No one wants to see them.
My feet may not be the thing with an issue. :). JB
They’re moccasins, for Christ’s sake. moccasins. $195 is overpriced.
To repeat the construction is moccasin.
If I’m gonna pay this kind of money, I’m definitely going Rancourt. Amazing customer service — including resoling.
They’re loafers. But with moccasin comfort. Are you a little too close to this issue? – JB
For an all pantherella sock, hang-and-pop, sir. Hang ‘em and pop ‘em. Not gross.
Did I mention the part about hangin’ and pippin’ ’?
My ancient Alden loafers which have been re-soled over ten times have no aroma. Same for my leather Sperry topsiders. Quality leather shoes don’t smell worn sockless. Cannot say the same about Sperry CVOs nor other synthetic lined shoes.
I don’t like labels. Ivy, prep, call it what you want. I have been wearing loafers, mostly penny loafers for more than four decades. I wore them in high school when I played in a rockabilly band. I continued to wear them in college when I discovered khaki pants and oxford button down collar shirts. I have worn them professionally with suits or when dressing more casually. They are universal. I’m wearing a pair right now at work in the office without socks. I currently wear Weejuns because they fit my feet extremely well. They are cheaply made. I have an old pair of Weejuns from about 25 years ago and the quality is like night and day. They don’t last long these days, but I’ll keep on wearing them as long as they sell them. Love the website.
I’m also a Rancourt fan,I have one of those hard to fit foot,Rancourt got me cover with their extended size offerings. Most importantly, Rancourts are made in the USA,like the Andover shop Kakkis reviewed recently. I support USA made products as often as possible.
Lovw wearing off white socks with my sz 13 Burgundy Weejun penny loafers from Maine.Love crushing down the backs so they slip off while walking or dangling them from a barstoolLove wearing them to the Townhouse Bar in NYC Love preppy men