onsidered 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. It wasn’t until 1930 that loafers entered fashion in the United States, as several shoe companies started producing American-made pairs—a tradition Ralph Lauren continues today—that became integral to the East Coast university look. The penny evolved from the 1940s and 1950s, when teenagers on dates would place a dime (the price of a pay phone call) in their shoes so they could call home for a ride. High schoolers later turned to copper-colored coins for a bolder statement, and style pioneers like James Dean and President John F. Kennedy helped popularize a more casual take on the loafer, one worn without socks on weekends spent seaside. By the 1980s, this sockless styling (paired with pinstriped suits and tanned ankles) was key to the Ralph Lauren look that we still celebrate today. Since our early collections, Ralph Lauren has taken the style and updated it each season to create versatile pairs appropriate for everyday wear. Today, our penny loafers are crafted in two footwear capitals of the world, Italy and the United States, using leather supple calfskin and vachetta leather, which are hand-sewn in a moccasin style to create shoes that are as handsome as they are comfortable. From decade to decade, we’ve offered these penny loafers in new hues, featuring different stitching and straps across the foot; some designs eliminate the split tab altogether in favor of bright grosgrain or a golden pony. Meanwhile, a variety of soles—dress leather, stacked wood and sporty rubber—offer options that complement the iconic Ralph Lauren summer lifestyle, whether the penny loafer is worn on a city workday, a beach weekend or a country party outside.
That’s why loafers—with or without the penny—have become an indispensable part of any stylish warm-weather wardrobe. They are just as appropriate for a summer wedding (when worn with linen pants and a navy blazer) they are for a weekend spent running errands, without socks, in a pair of crisp chino shorts. This versatility, coupled with our time-honored craftsmanship, ensures that our penny loafers will remain an icon of style for decades to come, as each individual pair takes on a character of its own.