In simple words, the answer would be ‘without socks” but since short answers are usually incomplete, hence a longer and more appropriate answer is as below:
WHAT ARE LOAFERS?
Loafers is an American term, which refers to a broad category of slip-on shoes – shoes with no laces.
Loafers are slip-on shoes that usually comes with a thinner sole. They are more of city shoes, ideal for city conditions. There are many patterns for the upper part –tassels, saddles, or plain. Loafers have also evolved into driving shoes and boat shoes, which essentially look like loafers but have distinct innovation on the inside of the shoe.
Loafers is an American Term, but most of its versions originated in Europe.
Starting Point of a Loafer:
Raymond Lewis Wildsmith designed a slip-on shoe for King George VI which became quite popular in British elites. A subsequent version of this slip-on shoe was “Harrow”. It was made by London based shoe company. This variant of the royal pair became an instant hit. And this is how Loafers actually arrived on the scene.
Shoemaker Nils Gregoriusson Tveranger created a unique combination of Native American Moccasin and fisherman’ shoes in Norway. This was in 1908 and these became so popular that these were referred as Aurland moccasin (Aurland is a small coastal city in Norway where Nils introduced these shoes). Aurland became a hub of these shoes; variants of Nils Moccasins were exported all over to America & Europe.
In 1934 Bass introduced a version of these Moccasins which were called Weejus (or Norwegian), Bass is the same company which used to supply shoes to Michael Jackson. Weejus was in a way tipping point in Loafer evolution, it became a must have and its variants became staple for university students while some variants became extremely popular even with Banking Community.
Some university students started keeping pennies (for no practical reason) under the saddle of these loafers, which is how the name “Penny Loafer” came to be.
In 1930’s, a significant version of Loafer was introduced by Paul Sperry, specifically as an attempt to solve the slippery surface problem which sailors used to struggle with. This shoe had rubber sole with herringbone pattern, had moccasin construction with a larger shoe opening [which made it easy to get into these shoes]. The leathers of this shoe were often thick and somewhat water resistant. These shoes started to be known as Boat Shoe and are extremely popular even today. The tipping point of these shoes was 1935 when US NAVY started using these.
In 1963 Italian company adopted these Loafers in a distinct way into a shoe which was particularly known as driving shoe. Thin rubber sole curved backwards to smoothen the angular gear & braking position. This is how another distinct Loafer member came into existence – what is now called Driving Shoe. The company, which pioneered this ‘Car Shoe’ still, exists and still makes these.
Therefore, if you look at the history of Loafers– they are popular with students, with MJ, with shippers, with people who drive cars and prefer a lighter pair of shoes etc. Essentially these shoes have a very cool – informal aura around them that rules out socks. This was also mostly a summer wear [for west], which also preferred shoes without socks.
Now the technical answer:
For using without socks – it is important that the shoe inside is of three versions:
100% cotton or higher performance sweat absorbent, an artificial fabric used by Nike – Asics
Or Unlined Leather which means its upper leather even from inside
All these three combinations are versions where Sweat absorption would be high and chances of Skin infection would be minimal. Any other versions inside –would require wearing socks.
Moreover, if one has to wear socks then ensure that it is no-show socks – or small socks, which are not visible on the outside. This solves it technically as well as culturally – the long history of informal dimension of these shoes!
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