Opinion: The loafer, a preppy staple that’s ebbed and flowed in trendiness through the years, is actually an undervalued wardrobe hero. Traditionally men’s shoes, they’re an easy style for women to wear because they toe the line between masculine and feminine, subversive and sensible. And whether you’re inspired by Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face" or coveting Gwenyth Paltrow’s brown leather ones in "The Royal Tenenbaums," wearing a pair of these shoes today exudes palpable sophistication.
From penny loafers to drivers in leather, suede, and velvet, there are plenty of loafer options to consider, which is why we took a deep dive into reviews and tested some of fashion’s most popular styles. We also spoke to designer and shoemaker George Esquivel of Esquivel Shoes, who says the best loafers are comfortable and easy to dress up or down.
Meet the Expert
Read on for our list of the best loafers.
Best Overall: G.H. Bass & Co. Whitney Weejuns
Who else recommends it? Harper's Bazaar, The Strategist, and Insider all picked the G.H. Bass & Co. Whitney Weejuns.
G.H. Bass & Co.’s classic Whitney Weejuns are timeless, versatile, well-priced, and comfortable, reviewers say. What more could you ask for in a pair of loafers? They’re made from leather with traditional moccasin stitching, and they look good with everything from cropped denim to relaxed suiting.
Colors: Black, Cordovan | Size Range: 5-11
What Our Editors Say
"My Weejuns accompany me just about everywhere. I wear them to work with dress socks, pair them with tube socks, jeans, and a sweatshirt for weekend errands, and have even worn them to the airport. They're not only comfortable but they make any outfit seem a bit more polished." —Erika Reals, Associate Fashion Editor
Best Budget: Everlane The Modern Loafer
The price of loafers can climb quite high, but this pair by Everlane is the best you’ll find for under $120. It’s a fresh take on the brand’s coveted original loafer style—made from supple leather and distinctive stitchwork. It sits on a slightly thicker heel than its predecessor, and the brand has added more padding for extra comfort.
Colors: Black, Camel | Size Range: 5-11
Best Heritage: Gucci 1953 Horsebit Loafer
Gucci’s classic approach to loafer design makes for no-fault shopping. This particular Horsebit style was introduced in the 1950s and offers just a touch of preppiness that’s reminiscent of the time, yet it's current enough to team with your favorite pair of jeans or trousers.
Colors: Black | Size Range: IT34-42
Best Value: Gucci Brixton Horsebit Convertible Loafer
For a well-crafted pair of loafers with maximum wearability, there’s Gucci’s convertible leather Horsebit loafer. It’s designed to be worn two ways—with the heel folded down as a backless slipper or up as a classic loafer. It also features a slimmer shape than the number above, like the brand’s Jordaan style, and half an inch in heel height.
Colors: Black, White, Red, +more | Size Range: IT34-42
Best Embellished: Louise et Cie Edoli Loafer
An upgrade from your standard penny loafers, this pair by Louise et Cie is bedecked with pearl-like studs and silver metal accents. The almond-shaped toe balances out the '90s chunky sole, allowing it to be the perfect work-to-weekend loafer. Plus, the shoe comes in three different colors to cover just about any outfit occasion.
Colors: Black, Tuscan Taupe, Azalea | Size Range: 5-11
Best Penny: Margaux The Penny
Margaux makes a modern penny loafer that we can’t help but love. Made in suede or calf hair with an unlined construction and plush padding, these loafers look and feel super sumptuous. Reviewers say they crease quickly, though this is to be expected from suede. Nailing down your perfect size and width could involve some trial and error if you can’t visit the brand’s Bleeker Street location, but they’re well worth the small fuss.
Colors: Emerald Suede, Leopard Haircalf, Chocolate Suede, Caramel Suede, +more | Size Range: 3-14 in Narrow, Medium, and Wide
Best Driver: Scarosso Ludovica Loafers
Scarosso is a modern Italian brand with high-quality footwear. It’s so in-tune with what people want to wear, thus its lightweight loafer in a driver style is one you won’t want to take off all spring/summer. It features clean lines and a flexible rubber sole for the best form and most functionality you could expect in a pair of drivers.
Colors: Light Grey, Light Blue, Beige, Blue, Pink | Size Range: 35-42
Best Vegan: Hunter Gloss Penny Loafers
A well-made pair of vegan loafers is admittedly hard to find, but the reviews for this pair by Hunter convinced us to halt our search. The slimline loafers are crafted from natural rubber in a glossy finish with a molded footbed that’s been lined in canvas for comfort and support. Since they’re naturally weatherproof, these shoes are perfect under almost any condition.
Colors: Navy, Black | Size Range: 5-11
Best Insulated: André Assous Phili Faux Fur Weather Resistant Loafer
André Assous' faux fur-lined leather loafers are as comfortable and warm as they are eye-catching. Made in Spain, the black leather upper and man-made rubber sole are supplemented with a chunky gold chain and cozy shearling for a look the brand says is "a luxe blend of rugged and chic."
Colors: Black, Dark Brown | Size Range: 6-11
Best Made-to-Order: Esquivel Liz Slip-On Loafers
Loafers should be casual, fun, and easy to wear, Esquivel says, and he makes a luxe loafer that checks all of those boxes, called Liz. You can order it in black suede straight away via the company’s website, or you can request that it be made custom with your choice of material, a service that is Esquivel’s specialty. To get started, you can book an appointment with the designer here.
Colors: Black Suede +more through the brand’s made-to-order service | Size Range: 6-10
Best Velvet: Margaux The Loafer
Margaux makes a classic loafer style in velvet that is as rich as it is timeless. It offers a supportive fit within a tailored velvet and grosgrain upper. For comfort, there’s a leather lining and plush foam padding, which reviewers say make them well worth the investment.
If you love the shape but aren’t sold on a velvet finish, which can be difficult to maintain long-term, the style also comes in suede and calf hair to accommodate a multitude of preferences.
Colors: Pink Velvet, Sienna Velvet, Navy Velvet, Cognac, +more | Size Range: 5-12.5 in Medium and Wide
Best Handmade: Jack Erwin Ruby Loafer
Jack Erwin crafts a loafer with a very artisanal look and feel. Handmade in Portugal, the loafer, which comes in leather or suede, has visible hand-stitching and an elongated square toe. The cushy foam insole and soft leather outsole maximize comfort and make for a truly lush loafer.
Colors: Terracotta, Sage, Ivory | Size Range: 5-11
Best Chunky: GANNI Leather Lug Sole Loafers
Chunky loafers like this black leather pair by Ganni elevate a look, both literally and figuratively, because, in addition to offering a few extra inches in height, they make an outfit look super cool. They’re also great for walking because the chunky outsole made from rubber adds both comfort and stability.
Colors: Black | Size Range: 5-11
Best Heeled: Totême The Kitten Loafer
There’s nothing like a kitten heel on a pair of loafers for the perfect balance of polish and panache. This pair by Totême offers exactly that; we love its streamlined silhouette with a pointed square toe and leather laces narrowly crossing the upper. We’d jump at the opportunity to wear them with trousers to a business affair or dinner with friends.
Colors: Black | Size Range: 35-42
Best Backless: Gucci Leather Princetown Loafer Mule
Yes, we’re big fans of Gucci, but do you blame us? Their products are best-in-class, with this Horsebit loafer mule style being one of our go-to shoes for everything from a trip to the grocery store to a swanky lunch with friends. It also comes in a lined version (view at Nordstrom), if you need a pair with insulation.
Colors: Black, White, Red, +more | Size Range: 34-42
Best Color Options: Tod’s Gommino Driving Shoe
Tod’s makes a classic driving shoe in any color our hearts could fancy, from silver to orange and light blue. Beyond that, the style is famed for its exposed hand stitching, penny bar, and rubber pebble outsole.
Colors: Violet, White, Black, Red, +more | Size Range: 4-12
Best Sustainable: Rothy’s The Loafer
Rothy’s makes shoes and accessories that are good for the planet and extremely wearable. So, it’s no surprise that according to reviewers, its loafer style, which the brand describes as a modern take on a classic silhouette, is effortlessly chic and very comfortable. For this pair, you may choose from a large palette of colors and prints in the brand’s signature knit from plastic bottles.
Colors: Navy, Olive Camo, Black Solid, Navy Double Stitch, +more | Size Range: 5-13
Best Weatherproof: Aquatalia Honora Loafer
Aquatalia makes fashionable footwear that’s also weatherproof. This pair, crafted from Italian suede, is impressive for its sleek silhouette, contrast-stitched welt, and serrated sole (which allows for great traction). It’s also lined in leather for an ultra-luxurious feel, and it offers a little lift—an inch and a half, to be more precise.
Colors: Black | Size Range: 5-12
What To Look For When Buying Loafers
Loafers come in many shapes and with various levels of detail. The best silhouette depends on your preferences. Chunky loafers have an avant-garde feel and thus make a statement, while ones with a low profile and minimalist design details, like penny loafers, tend to be more classic and versatile.
In any worthy piece of clothing, shoe, or accessory, craftsmanship is key. But particularly for loafers, which are known for their refined design, workmanship, and attention to detail is very important for shoppers to consider. Esquivel recommends looking for loafers that can be resoled and that have a full leather construction, i.e., a leather upper and a leather lining. “Leather is breathable, so it doesn’t cause as much sweating as other materials,” which is important if you’re going sockless since moisture creates friction and, therefore, blisters, Esquivel says.
Beyond that, ask yourself if the stitching is tight and relatively even (anything handmade won’t be flawless), and if the outsoles appear sturdy (i.e., they’re stitched, rather than glued, using traditional shoe-making methods, such as Goodyear welting or a Blake construction). If the answers are both ‘yes,’ these are good indications that your shoes are well-made.
What Are Penny Loafers?
Penny loafers are the most classic style of loafers that originated in the early 20th century when G.H. Bass & Co. debuted what we know today as its heritage Weejuns line. The line was based on a style that was worn by 19th-century Norwegian fishermen, but it was only when young people began sliding coins in the notch at the top of the shoe that the term “penny loafer” stuck.
Are Loafers Business Casual?
Most loafers are considered business casual when paired with other business attire, like trousers or cigarette pants, blouses, and blazers. This is perhaps because loafers are very versatile and can polish off any look; they can elevate cropped denim and leggings or blend seamlessly with more professional pieces. “They’re perfect for today’s trend of mixing high and low, dressy and casual [attire],” Esquivel says.
Why Trust Byrdie
This shopping guide was written by Byrdie contributor Hayley Prokos. A seasoned commerce writer and editor, she’s constantly on the hunt for timeless styles to make getting dressed easier. Her work has appeared in SELF Magazine, Newsweek, and the daily Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, and she holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Northwestern University. For this roundup, she spent upwards of 10 hours investigating the best loafers on the market.
The best loafer styles to wear now and always. Harper's Bazaar. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/trends/g39002208/best-womens-loafers
The 9 very best loafers for women. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-loafers-women.html
9 pairs of women's loafers that are guaranteed to never go out of style. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/style/best-loafers-for-women