The Enduring Practicality of the Driving Loafer


How many pairs of driving loafers does one guy need? None. As a matter of true need, I don’t see how this shoe is a necessity in a man’s arsenal. One can drive an automobile in any style of shoe from a penny loafer to an oxford, a desert or cowboy boot, or a good old pair of sneakers. One shoe style I would not recommend for driving is flip flops. In fact, I don’t believe flip flops should be worn anywhere outside of a pool area or beach, or in the shower at the gym. Just my opinion. I digress. So, while we may not need a driving loafer, as one who owns not one, but three pairs I have found them to be extraordinarily comfortable and practical.

Let’s start with a little history lesson. From the L’Bardi website:

The iconic driving shoe design was patented in 1963 by Gianni Mostile. At first it was a shoe for the rich, a shoe designed specifically for driving, not everyone could afford leather shoes for the sole purpose of driving. The cockpits of many Italian roadsters and berlinette, also known as coupés, were and still are quite restricted and small, the driving shoe was created to cater to the wealthy gentlemen drivers that owned these automotive masterpieces and wanted a lightweight sleek shoe that made for easy driving. The rubber pebble sole that extends to the heel protects the leather when the foot is on the pedals and prevents the sole from slipping...

They go on to describe the evolution and versatility of the shoe as well as the ability to purchase them now in a variety of leathers and colors. L’Bardi shoes happen to be made in Italy, and are priced very reasonably from $150 – $200. Velasca also makes a nice version for $235. And Scarosso has some nice options (currently available for pre-order) for $225. Tod’s is probably one of the most famous makers of the shoe, and also on the considerably more expensive side in the $600 – $700 range.

So, why do I own three? Well, as my wife can attest it takes a lot for me to get rid of things; especially clothes & shoes. Now that we live in a house, an old pair of chinos would be great for mowing the lawn. Same with that old pair of boat shoes. The pair pictured above were purchased more than ten years ago at the Sperry store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Sperry is best known for their slip-on boat shoes and canvas sneakers. I bought these as something to wear on long road trips, or on rainy work days.The soles of most drivers are made of the same leather or suede as the uppers, but these are all rubber making them perfect for wet days. They are, after all Sperry’s. They’ve become softer with each wear (especially in the rain), and are extremely comfortable. I never loved the styling though, and had wanted to replace them for years.

Last year I found these on clearance on the J.Crew website. They are also made by Sperry, but are made more in the traditional driver style – with the rubber pebble sole that extends to the heel, and have the added feature of leather laces. They were a little snug at first, but have since started to break in nicely. They are quite comfortable for driving, and I look forward to the day I finally bring home my 1967 MGC roadster (more on that later); slip these on along with some Dents Gloves and throw a picnic basket loaded with wine & charcuterie into the trunk, and head for the lake and…wait, where to I think I live?

My third pair was an unplanned purchase from an unexpected source. I had a gift code from Zappos.com. They had this pair from Polo Ralph Lauren on sale at a very reasonable price, much of which was covered by the gift code. I knew I didn’t need another driver, but I really liked the penny loafer styling as well as the full rubber sole. They also happen to be the best fitting pair and the best color. I can wear these with chinos, shorts, or a pair of jeans, and go right from my car to the restaurant or into a meeting, etc. Last summer they became my go-to shoe for running a quick errand and backyard gatherings. Now that it’s spring, I’ve switched from my my rustic L.L.Bean camp mocs to these again for daily use.

Since I started writing this and looking at all the different options out there, I have the urge to buy yet another pair; perhaps in a blue or green suede. L’Bardi, Velasca, & Scarosso all offer them in this configuration. That’s not to say I will act on this urge. Where am I driving these days anyway? They would make a good house shoe/slipper alternative. But I’m pretty sure I don’t need green suede driving loafers to get groceries from Trader Joe’s. But this was never about need, right?

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