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Four years ago, I purchased my first pair of loafers. As a California girl traumatized by the sight of preppy “boat shoes” when I arrived at college on the East Coast, it took a significant sartorial re-examination for me to come around to the beauty of a great loafer. And now...
Basically, I’m a loafer fiend. I’ve worn my original pair of loafers into the ground, and have spent the last few months with upwards of fifteen tabs open, searching for my next pair (or three). Even greater than the actual purchase is the thrill of the chase. So, to save you some time, I’ve curated the best DTC loafers at every price point, for every occasion and style preference.
A New School Classic: Freda Salvador Elba Penny Loafer, $375 (15% off with code TQE15)
A few of my favorite fashion influencers (Hi Courtney Grow, Gabriella Gofis) have referenced these loafers from Freda Salvador as the “holy grail loafers” so I was really excited to try them. I was on the hunt for a loafer that’s not only cute and high quality but is actually comfortable enough to wear on a daily basis. I’m happy to report that the Elba Penny Loafer delivers on all fronts.
The initial unboxing is such a delight - the packaging is gorg and then you see the loafers and the detail on them is truly show-stopping. They suggest ordering true to size and say that the first few wears will be snug as they break in and mold your foot. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were pretty comfortable (with socks) on my first wear. And after a few wears, they really do mold to your feet and have become the comfiest pair of (non-sneaker) shoes that I own. Use code TQE15 for 15% off at Freda Salvador.
An OG Classic: G.H. Bass Whitney Weejuns, $125
I would be remiss not to grant the first spot to my first love: G.H. Bass. Established in 1876 and known for creating the Weejuns loafer -- worn by James Dean, JFK, and Audrey Hepburn -- G.H. Bass is a heritage brand, but it doesn’t rest on its laurels. These shoes are enduring because they actually endure. My first loafer purchase ever was the brand’s iconic Whitney Weejuns. Worried that they might not stand the test of time (or East Coast weather), I pored over reviews prior to purchasing that assured me they would.
Four years (and snowy winters) later, I can confirm that these loafers have stood the test of time and elements. I still reach for them almost every day, which I attribute to their chic and timeless design. They feel like my favorite pair of vintage denim: the loafer that goes with everything, polishes every look, and just makes me feel like myself. The pair I own and love doesn’t have a lug-sole, but has a traditional finished leather sole, with a rubber heel -- an important detail that enables a confident stride (a.k.a., no slipping or tripping in these). I’m wearing them as I type this. And yes, they’re ridiculously comfortable. I’ve walked upwards of 10 miles in these shoes. No blisters.
A Platform: Vagabond Cosmo 2.0, $175
Vagabond is making the ideal platform loafer for your winter wardrobe refresh: it’s on trend, but not “trendy.” The Cosmo 2.0 is a legitimately chunky loafer, with a 45mm heel height and a rounded apron toe that accentuates the general volume of the shoe. From what I’ve heard, all of Vagabond’s loafers are pretty comfortable (and durable) after the initial break-in period. Bonus points for maintaining the classic penny front to balance the distinctly trendy platform. These are often sold-out on site, but they restock often -- and if you’re impatient, try your luck at Garmentory.
Another Platform (But Make It Sustainable): Alohas Trailblazer, $162
Alohas, the sustainable DTC shoe brand dominating Instagram targeted ads since 2020 (just my algorithm?) leans more towards the trendy side of the platform loafer spectrum. The Trailblazer Loafer -- made with sustainable leather and low-impact dying -- has a thicker, more structured silhouette than the Vagabond option. In addition to classic black and patent black colorways, the shoe also comes in olive, yellow, brown, and bicolor black and white. Get to clicking for your new statement loafer -- one that’s a little kinder to the planet.
Fine, One More Platform: Reformation Agathea, $248
This platform loafer from Reformation is, cards on the table, my favorite in the platform loafer category (clearly a saturated sector, with many worthy competitors). It’s definitely pricier than the aforementioned options, but the silhouette of the Agathea leans more timeless than trendy -- the investment is offset by cost-per-wear (math). With a classic penny front, modest 35mm platform, and tasteful lug sole, the Agathea breathes modern life into the quintessential loafer without trying too hard (an ideal balance for a wardrobe staple). True to Reformation’s ethos, the shoe is sustainably made in Brazil with recouro-regenerated leather welt and a recycled rubber soul.
For The Maximalist: Ganni Jewel Moccasin, $375
These gorgeously bejeweled Ganni loafers exude elegance. They are loafers fit for a princess -- and not just because of their price tag. I’ve tried these on and, unfortunately for my wallet and wishlist, fallen deeply in love. Made with 100% leather in Portugal with a low, square heel, they have a sleek shape that polishes and elevates any look -- be it a holiday soiree or coffee with a friend.
If You Can Get Your Hands On It: Aimé Leon Dore Penny Loafers, $245
Aimé Leon Dore’s stunning contrast Penny Loafers, much like most of the brand’s collection, sell out almost immediately after each drop. But that doesn’t mean I won’t include them (and, if you’re a size 3 or 7.5, today is your lucky day). With a classic shape, impeccable hand-constructed quality, and playful contrasting colorways, these are the loafers you’ll wear to grab your morning espresso -- and look really expensive while doing so. Watch for the next drop to get a pair (or peruse this dupe -- which likely predates the ALD version -- from G.H. Bass for a significantly better price, at $125).
This didn’t help my own decision-making process as I shop for a new pair of loafers (now I just want them all), but hopefully it introduced you to your year-round footwear essential. Let us know your favorite over @thequalityedit, or email me what you’re eyeing at firstname.lastname@example.org.