GQ’s Best Stuff is at it again, hunting down the best all-purpose shoes to add to your footwear arsenal.
Jack Erwin “Archie” Loafer
> $195, buy it now at Jack Erwin
The fashion world has a very serious sneaker obsession, and while that’s a very good thing, no matter how cool or laid-back your boss is or how casual your cousin’s wedding’s dress code is, colorful designer kicks just aren’t appropriate for every occasion. That’s why you need a pair of proper loafers. The right loafers can be dressed-up and dressed-down, worn with or without socks, and they make a first impression that says, “Take me seriously” and “Want to join me on my yacht?” They have the formality of a dress shoe but are peppered with the go-with-the-flow-ness of an Italian man smoking and wearing sunglasses in a Fellini film. Wear them with a suit. Pair them with shorts and channel your inner Dickie Greenleaf (consider them the grown man’s boat shoes). The best loafers you want to be wearing right now come in black leather and fuse the aesthetics of preppy-leaning penny loafers with the silhouette of streamlined dress shoes. Luckily, when you’re talking about an item so deeply embedded within the menswear canon, you can find a great option at every price point. So here are four, starting with our favorite, Jack Erwin’s “Archie” loafer.
4 Reasons We Love Jack Erwin’s “Archie” Loafer
1. They’re a straight-up bargain: There may be many, many iterations of the loafer currently on the market right now—when it’s an enduring style, pretty much every brand has a version of it—but Jack Erwin’s really hits that sweet spot where quality and value overlap. Thanks to the company’s direct-to-consumer business model, you’re able to get high-end trappings (more on that in a minute) for a way more palatable price than other brands offering the same thing.
2. The handsome devil is in the details: The number of thoughtful details jam-packed into a pair of Archies is downright impressive. There’s the full-grain-leather uppers (thicker and tougher than calfskin), the reinforced stack heels, the fully lined leather insoles, and the hand-stitched leather outsoles, features that we didn’t think would be doable in a sub-$200 shoe—until we saw these.
3. A good stitch-uation: Goodyear welting is a marker of high-quality shoemaking, and these handmade-in-Spain loafers have it. It’s a shoemaking technique in which a single piece of leather is run along the shoe’s perimeter that joins the upper and lower sections (flip a shoe over—if there’s stitching on the sole, that’s a Goodyear welt). In addition to just being more labor-intensive and a mark of a quality shoe, a Goodyear welt is easy to resole once you do what you’re supposed to with these loafers: wear the shit out of them.
4. They’re presidential and preppy: Jack Erwin’s riff on the ever-popular penny loafer can easily substitute as a dress shoe because of one simple detail: the shape of the toe. The toe box (the shape of the front) and the vamp (the bridge) are more elongated than a classic penny loafer would be, which gives the impression of a longer toe, which traditionally connotes a dressier silhouette.
A Closer Look
3 More Loafers Worth Your Money
The No-Brainer Budget Pick
G.H. Bass & Co. “Larson” Weejuns
When it comes to loafers, Bass is synonymous with the slip-on style. The brand’s “Weejun” is a cult menswear item as beloved for its unpretentious simplicity as it is for its wallet-friendly price. It’s on the slightly more casual end of the spectrum, but still features some of the bells and whistles some of the fancier models have (leather soles being one of them). If you’re looking for shoes that convey a certain amount of ease that guys like J.F.K. worked so well, then these are your loafers.
> $110, buy now at G.H. Bass & Co.
The “My Home Office Is My Villa” Pick
Salvatore Ferragamo “Fiorino 2” Loafer
These shoes belong in a museum—scratch that, they already are. Ferragamo has a rich history of crafting iconic footwear, and the loafer is at the cornerstone of their luxury-goods legacy. The Italian house makes a slip-on in every iteration you can think of, but the label’s “Fiorino 2” loafer is a standout for combining all of the things Ferragamo does best: make beautiful shoes, make beautiful shoes that look expensive (’cause they are), and make shoes that any guy would look good wearing, no matter what his tastes are. Like our top pick, this version has an elongated shape, but it’s longer and thus marginally dressier than our winner.
> $560, buy now at Nordstrom
The Money-Is-Really-No-Object Pick
J.M. Weston “180 The Moccasin” Loafer
Yes, these loafers clock in at a whopping $835. But in a rare instance where you actually get what you pay for, these handsome shoes can justify their sky-high price tag. They’re handmade in France (a country that respects artisanal craftsmanship the way America appreciates muscle cars) and feature uncommon finishes like a split toe and raised toe box that will set you apart from every other pair of feet in the office. It took 200 different tries to nail this exact silhouette, and while we wish every guy had these in his wardrobe, at this price they just can’t compete with our top overall pick.