Saturday, June 25, 2011

The History of the Penny Loafer

Ralp Lauren Penny LoafersI've never been a fashionista/o per se. My sense of fashion until college, embarrassingly, consisted of the latest, back-to-school specials from J.C. Penny's and Wal-Mart.

But over time, one acquires an appreciation for how the other half lives. And, alas, my time at Dartmouth more than imparted to me an appreciation for East Coast fashion trends.

Enter my fascination with Ralph Lauren's History of the Penny Loafer which conveniently crossed my path while searching "Ralph Lauren Baby." (Don't ask).

According to the company's website:

Considered the official footwear of the preppy lifestyle, the penny loafer has earned its place in history along with the cotton chino, the oxford shirt and the navy blazer as an American wardrobe essential that's timeless, stylish and appropriate for any occasion.

More than a century ago, Norwegian farmers first slipped on these styles—defined by the strap across the toe with a tab for the coin—to tend to their cows who were "loafing" out at pasture.


Funny that what was once the footwear of the peasant has since become the 'official footwear of the preppy lifestyle.' Then again, I suppose this is true of a lot of things.

Harlem in NYC was once the stomping grounds of crack dealers and gangs. Today, it's the poster-child for urban gentrification. Cycling was once the endeavor of those who could not afford a car. Today, it's the pastime of wealthy men. And even Apple Computers, which was once a company in turmoil, has since become the computer of choice for the sophisticated and urbane .

Anyway, there's no greater point to distill from the piece than its interesting history. But I suppose the next time I fire up my MacBook Air in Harlem after locking up my bike, I will double-check to make sure that I have donned my penny loafers for the afternoon.

And after that, I will promptly flagellate myself for having become an empty cliché, masquerading as a person.

On the other hand, the Ralph Lauren penny loafers above are pretty sweet...

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