When considering casual 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:
Loafers come in a wide range of design and formality, but with a couple of defining characteristics: no buckles or laces, and the ability to slip on and off. They are certainly more casual than lace-up dress shoes—but leather loafers are still considered more formal than driving shoes or moccasins.
One popular type of loafer is the horse-bit loafer, which originated with Gucci. While many variations exist, 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 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, 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. If you must, be sure to wear no-shows.
Driving shoes are basically the sporty, European cousin of the loafer. The leather driving shoe is a simple slip-on shoe with rubber-grommet soles. 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 driving shoe in response to men’s complaints that their traditional shoes felt too cumbersome for driving their swanky Italian roadsters. 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: no socks. 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 soles of driving shoes are designed for grip and sensitivity, not for strenuous use.
Can’t decide? Take a minute to check out our collection of leather driving shoes and loafers.