If you’re new around these parts, allow us to welcome you to the golden age of loafers. It’s a historically glorious time to be on the hunt for a pair of swanky leather slip-ons, and the market is exploding with freaky riffs on the hard-bottom silhouette. In 2023, you can buy loafers anchored by honking lug soles and done up in funky, colorful fabrics—but until recently, kiltie loafers were barely in the mix. All that, we’re excited to report, is about to change. Thanks to a trio of unimpeachably cool kicks outfitted with a telltale hit of fringe, the kiltie loafer’s stock is on the rise, and now is the best time to buy in.
Kiltie detailing has been around in one form or another for a while, but its origins are a little ambiguous. Most navel-gazing menswear historians attribute the design flourish to the Scots, who popularized the look in the form of, you know, kilts, which makes sense when you consider its association with golf’s more traditional geezer-leaning aesthetic. But sometime around the middle of the last century, kiltie detailing started appearing on oxfords, boots, and eventually loafers, where the style caught on as a WASP-y alternative to plain old pennies.
So it follows that G.H. Bass & Co—the brand that really put penny loafers on the map back in 1936—now makes one of the best versions around, available with either a standard leather or rubber lug sole, both just a whisper under 200 bucks. Prefer your loafers with a punk-rock affiliation and a big-time Tyler, the Creator cosign? Solovair, Bass’ legendary across-the-pond counterpart, sells a version with a resoleable Goodyear-welted finish for around the same price. And if a kiltie and tassels don’t offer enough pizzazz for your tastes, Brendon Babenzien and the team at Noah just dropped a duo of buckle-adorned diddies designed to complement the brand’s rumpled prep staples, like fat double-pleated chinos, acid-drenched mohair sweaters, and suits cut with a skater’s eye for proportion.
Slip on any of the options here with blue jeans and a crisp white tee or let ‘em anchor your suits to avoid looking like one. Kiltie loafers have officially exited the fringes of the menswear discourse and are ready to kick the rest of your, uh, kicks to the curb—politely, of course.