When considering casual leather shoes for men, the driving shoe vs. loafer question is often raised. What are they, really? And is there a difference between them? Thankfully they’re both great options—but there are some distinctions. We’ll give you a quick rundown here:
Leather loafers (a descendant of the moccasin) come in a wide range of design and formality, but with a couple of defining characteristics: no buckles or laces, and the ability to easily slip on and off the feet. They may or may not have a rubber sole and, even in fine leather, they are certainly more casual than lace-up dress shoes. However, leather loafers are still considered more formal than leather driving shoes or their predecessor, the moccasin.
One popular type of loafer is the leather horse-bit loafer, which originated with Gucci. While many variations exist (rubber sole or not, small heel or not) the defining detail on this type of loafer is the metal bar (resembling a horse bit) across the vamp of the shoe.
One of the most popular and long-standing forms of loafers is the leather penny loafer, with its trademark diamond cutout across the vamp (perfectly suited to store a penny in case of emergency—hence the name). That penny may not be practical anymore, but the loafers sure are.
Versatile and fashionable, leather loafers are a 3-season shoe that can be easily dressed up or down for a variety of occasions. Loafers pair well with chinos or cords, but are not meant to be worn with socks on the feet. If you must, be sure to wear no-shows.
Leather driving shoes are basically the sporty, European cousin of the loafer. The leather driving shoe is a simple slip-on shoe with a grommeted rubber sole. Like the loafer, the driving shoe is a descendant of the moccasin, but was invented for… yep: driving.
In the early 1960’s, an Italian shoe company rolled out the leather driving shoe in response to men’s complaints that their traditional shoes felt too cumbersome for driving their swanky Italian roadsters. Their feet needed something more responsive on the pedals. Originally a luxury reserved only for the very wealthy, over time, the leather driving shoe has expanded its user profile.
A great choice for any moderately dressed up occasion, leather driving shoes pair well with shorts or slim pants, but like loafers: please, no socks on those feet. Leather drivers are ideal for driving (obviously), flying (easy on-and-off through security), business-casual at the office, and lunch or dinner out; but, leave them at home if you’re planning a long walk around the city. The textured rubber sole of driving shoes was designed for feet grip and sensitivity on pedals, not for strenuous use.
Can’t decide? Take a minute to check out our collection of leather driving shoes and loafers.