Can You Wear Loafers With a Suit?

Written by aaron charles
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Can You Wear Loafers With a Suit?
Loafers range from more casual, as shown, to more dressy. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The inclination might be there, but, according to fashion authorities at large, the right might not be. The question of whether wearing loafers is fashionably acceptable can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." There are factors and nuances to consider. Still, at the end of the day, regardless of what the experts say, you might side with actress Gilda Radner, who said, "I base my fashion sense on what doesn't itch."


Before getting too deep into the issue, first some disambiguation regarding what "suit" means: a suit refers to a formal suit as traditionally worn in business culture. This means dress slacks with a same-coloured, matching jacket, collared shirt and a tie. A casual alternative to the suit is the sport jacket with less formal, and not necessarily same-coloured, trousers, such as khakis. A man's decision on whether to wear loafers depends much on whether he'll wear a suit or a sports jacket and trousers.


Another important factor is the distinction between different styles of loafer. The website Shoe Buff, backed by Toronto-based entrepreneur Daniel Eckler, presents the penny loafer in a favourable light, saying that it may be worn in both casual and formal settings, and can be worn with a suit provided that the penny loafer has a lean profile. Many also approve of wearing tassled loafers with suits. But there seems to be a general understanding that anything less formal than that, such as the 'cheap square-toed loafers' mentioned by author Donna Wilkinson, don't work with formal wear.


Some, though, hate the idea of loafers with suits, even if they're lean-profiled, tassled, penny loafers. "GQ" Magazine's The Style Guy notes that tassled loafers are casual wear, but because of their northeastern-preppy heritage they're thought to convey class, and so are perceived as dressy. Ultimately, though, he decides against them. He continues to say that penny loafers are just too casual for formal wear, in spite of the numerous middle- to retirement-aged male professionals wearing them in Washington, D.C.


Heeding what's considered professional in your area may benefit you, and may even allow you to sidestep the strict opinions that others hold against the loafer. At Atlanta, Georgia's Morehouse College, for example, educators encourage their upcoming graduates to be ready for the job interviews after graduation, which means giving special attention to attire. This attire, according to them, deems loafers and penny loafers acceptable, as long as they're shined. But, it might also be wise to err on the side of caution. Larry Winget, author of "People Are Idiots and I can Prove It!," says, "Loafers never go with a suit. Penny loafers don't really go with anything... and... tassle loafers work only when you want everyone to consider you a pretentious goober named Biff."

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