Penny loafers are low, leather step-in
shoes whose tops resemble
a moccasin, but have broad flat heels. They first appeared
in the mid 1930's. They have no shoelaces or buckles. Penny
loafers are made of leather and are often worn in formal
The men's fashion and lifestyle magazine Esquire
photographed dairy farmers in Norway wearing slip-on shoes
around the cattle loafing area (where dairy cows gather
to await milking).
American lumber and leather interests owned by the Spaulding
family in New Hampshire started making loafers based on
these photographs in about 1932 or 1933 - naming them loafers.
They were also called ponies by some - often women would
slip a foot out of one shoe and rest their toes on the counter
(back) thus appeared to be standing as a pony often will
with one leg resting on the very tip of its hoof.
In 1934 Bass (a bootmaker in Wilton, Maine) started making
loafers and called them Weejuns (meant to sound like Norwegian.
These had a strap across the upper part of the vamp that
was shaped like a pair of lips (said to be Mrs. Bass kissing
each shoe on its way out the door). The mouth opening soon
was used to hold an ornamentation - perhaps a penny and
thus penny loafers became a style. Penny loafers often held
a dime instead of a penny. If a girl's date got out of line
she could call home on a pay phone--which accepted dimes
during most of the fifties and sixties.
Penny loafers are worn by both sexes, though more often
by men. Women's penny loafers also have many different styles.