Goodbye trusty trainers: Traditional loafers are stepping out and back into fashion

As Paris Fashion Week kicks off this week, people are ditching their trusty trainers for something a little more old-fashioned: traditional dress shoes.

Data from industry website Business of Fashion shows 45 percent of well-heeled American and British men are planning to buy smart shoes in 2023, compared with around a third who were opting for trainers.

In particularly the ultra-classic model, the moccasin, a design that has been around since the days of the Wild West, is making a significant comeback and leaving sneakers in the dust.

While you may still associate moccasins with the shoe of choice for annoying posh conservatives or what your grandad wears while gardening, this classic design has been updated to modern times and is now available to buy in various bold colours, prints and unique materials.

"It is traditionally a rather classic model, very urban, a bit "preppy" and we have seen, in fact, new models arriving on the moccasin market, a bit cooler, a bit more "casual", with large soles, colour variations, materials, which means that, as a result, the moccasin is aimed at many more customers, also younger customers," explains Graziella Dubief, the director of footwear purchasing for Galeries Lafayette in Paris.

The history of the moccasins

Canva images
A traditional Moccasin shoe - Canva images

Moccasins have been worn by indigenous people in North America for thousands of years and its names derives from the Algonquian word "makasin," which means "shoe."

The traditional moccasin is a slip-on shoe made from a single piece of hide, with the seams sewn on the outside. They were typically made from the hides of deer, elk, or bison, and were often decorated with beading, quillwork, or other embellishments.

Moccasins were an essential part of many indigenous cultures, and were used for hunting, fishing, and other activities. They were also worn during ceremonies and other important events, and were often passed down through generations.

In the last century, the moccasin shoes were adapted and became popular in the western culture as well, especially in the form of loafers, boat shoes and driving shoes.

Growing popularity of dress shoes

AFP
A collection of J.M. Weston moccasin shoes - AFP

The world has changed a lot since the outbreak of COVID-19, and with it, so have our fashion choices. One trend that has been on the rise since the pandemic began is the growing popularity of dress shoes.

Formal styles are now all over red carpets and catwalks, sported by trendsetters like rapper A$AP Rocky Rocky and US actor-director Donald Glover.

And French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus wore black loafers and dressed his models in them for his last show in December, despite his high-profile sneaker collaboration with Nike.

Some are still struggling to get over the old connotations. "There are never loafers at a Hermes show," said Pierre Hardy, who heads up shoe design at the French label. "It was really the preppie, right-wing, reactionary shoe."

But Hermes still produces and sells loafers, and Hardy understands why sales have been spiking.

"After the lockdowns, people grew tired of everything being cosy. Now we have permission to go out and we want elegant, chic things," he said.

How to wear loafers and look great

Are you in need of some style inspiration on how to rock the ultimate loafer ensemble? Well, allow this collection of images and tweets to ignite the fashion fire within you and elevate your dress shoe game to new heights!

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They might not strike the right vibe for the catwalk, but if you don't see many during Paris Men's Fashion Week, they you certainly will be seeing more of them on the streets.