The Return of the Belgian Loafer

August 5th, 2015

Men are predictable. We’re all creatures of habit. Which is great, if you’re a fashion designer or wardrobe stylist. In menswear almost everything “new” and “trendy” has already had it’s moment in the sun, at one time or another. Just think about the go-to staples in your wardrobe, chances are some of them been around for almost a hundred years; notch lapel sportcoats, slip-on loafers, panama hats, etc.

I’m not sure if it’s because we, as men, appreciate the history and cultural association of items. Or perhaps we’re just scared like hell of trying something new and being ridiculed. Either way, having good style is much less about finding “new” menswear designs and much more about bringing back the old ones in a way that feels fresh and modern.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of iconic slip-ons rising from the archives to newfound popularity: penny loafers, tassel loafers, even Prince Albert slippers have seen a strong resurgence. And it seems that the next shoe in line is the venerable Belgian loafer.

In the 1940s Henri Bendel (yes, that Henri Bendel, the first guy to bring Chanel to the states) designed an understatedly elegant loafer with a small, but unmistakable bow on the front. Bendel went directly to 300 year-old Belgian cobblers to produce the loafers using the meticulous “turned” method. This means that the shoes are sewn inside-out, and then flipped once they are completed, ensuring that each stitch is flawless.
The slip-ons become a WASP favorite (seen from Madison Avenue to Palm Beach) in the ’60s as comfort and class were the themes of the day, but they fell out of more mainstream favor as styles changed. Despite the drop in popularity, Bendel’s company, the aptly named Belgian Shoes, endured, keeping the same production techniques throughout the years. Now, the shoes’ casual, yet stately aesthetic seems to be carrying them right back into the spotlight once again. More unique than a penny loafer, more comfortable than double monks, and backed by over fifty years of time tested craftsmanship, the Belgian loafer is a good way to add a touch of European elegance to your everyday grind. (And yes, real men wear ribbons.)” – Jake Gallagher for GQ

Today they’re available in just about any fabric, from “formal exotics” to “casual linens“. You can even have a pair custom made from your own fabric – if you’re looking for a “one of one” kinda thing.

With that said, here are some ideas on how to work the traditional Belgian loafer into your loafer rotation, featuring this modern interpretation handmade in Italy by our guys at Paul Evans NY.

Casually Tailored

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Here’s a great way to work some tailoring into your casual looks: waistcoat + trousers + henley in a monochromatic scheme, preferably all navy.

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Menswear is simple. Keep the outfit easy and don’t forget the little thing – like proper fit, consistent grooming, and smart accessories.

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Summer Suited

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Suede loafers in chestnut brown are one of the most versatile shoes you can own. These are brand new and I’ve already worn them with everything from cropped jeans, to tailored shorts, to green herringbone suits.

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An earthy color palette (like this green, brown & burnt orange) is not just for Fall. I find these colors to be flattering and approachable, year-round.

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  • Round sunglasses by Vint & York ·
  • Silk grenadine tie by Aklasu ·
  • Watch by Montblanc Timewalker Automatic ·
  • “Van Damme” Belgian style loafers by Paul Evans
  • · Green Herringbone Wool/Silk Suit

Olive Cotton Cashmere Suit

Bespoke Layering

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I really can’t say enough about the style points of the contrast waiscoat. In the summer season, when layering can be difficult, it’s a great way to play with textures and seasonal fabrics. Take this burgundy worsted wool and camel hopsack combo, for example.

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This panama hat has been getting a good workout this summer, and I’ve actually noticed less face sunburns this year…

On a completely separate note, we’re only about a month away from launching our online bespoke collection! We’re very excited to not only share our knowledge of tailoring and menswear, but to actually become your bespoke tailor shop (I’ll be personally designing and fitting each garment myself) to help you build a smart, versatile, life-long wardrobe.

More on all that soon…

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  • “Center Dent” straw hat by Stetson ·
  • Check shirt by Paul Stuart ·
  • Round sunglasses by Vint & York ·
  • “Van Damme” Belgian style loafers by Paul Evans
  • · Burgundy suit
  • · Camel hopsack Vest

Burgundy Worsted Suit

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier