The Loafer: The (Dressy) Alternative to the Boat Shoe

Don't get me wrong – the boat shoe is an awesome first choice in upgrading your casual footwear for the summer months. It looks great with shorts, chinos, jeans, basically anything you throw at it. And while it is certainly dressier than what you used to wear with those items, mainly flip flops or sneakers, they are still definitely for casual-wear only. You could never wear them in any environment above casual khakis.So what's the next level up? Loafers. You may look at them and think that they're dress shoes – which they can be – but it's all in what you pair them with. A rich, low-profile pair of loafers, like these featured Florsheim Berkleys ($100) are a sleek warm weather option for anytime you want to be a little more up-town instead of boardwalk.

Get them: Florsheim | Amazon

Click on the tabs below to see the different ways they can be worn.

The Loafer

Slim, Straight Jeans

Slip on a pair of loafers with dark, slim-straight jeans just as you would with brown bluchers. The key to the look is the trim leg with minimal break, otherwise the low profile of the shoes won't be in proportion.

Jeans: Gap Selvedge, $89
Socks: Target, $1.99


Just like with a boat shoe, loafers look right at home with chinos or khakis. As with jeans, it's important that the pants have a tailored fit.

Cuffed Selvedge Denim

Cuff a pair of slim selvedge jeans and go sockless for a classic look that works just as well with a t-shirt as an oxford or polo.

Stand Out in a Suit

Mix it up for the office. Unlike boat shoes, the right loafers look great with a navy or gray suit.

Leather Soles

Upgrade from the chunky rubber soles of cheaper shoes to leather.

Other Picks

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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply March 27, 2013


    Be careful of the Montecito. It’s a gorgeous shoe, but will show far more sock/foot/ankle.

  • Reply March 27, 2013

    Logan Greer

    I live in Texas, so the biggest factor in a summer shoe is that it looks great with shorts. Like the concept, especially with those blue chinos, but I’ll stick with the boat shoe.

  • Reply March 27, 2013

    Aaron Harris

    Which color is this in the photos?

    • Reply March 27, 2013


      It’s the brown crazy horse color.

      • Reply February 20, 2014


        Andrew–know this was posted a while back, but interested to see how these shoes have held up. Can you speak to the quality?

        • Reply February 20, 2014


          Yep, still looking great! I love mine. I don’t wear them everyday but I believe they’ve held up nicely.

          • February 21, 2014


            Thanks Andrew. Appreciate the feedback. You do a great job on the site!

  • Reply March 27, 2013

    Rob Simons

    how do you keep your feet form stinking in these shoes?

    • Reply March 27, 2013


      Same with boat shoes, baby powder or foot spray. Also, don’t wear them every day.

    • Reply March 27, 2013


      Odor Eaters insoles and foot spray! It’s worked great for me.

  • Reply March 27, 2013

    Rob Simons

    what about the traditional cordovan color?

  • Reply March 27, 2013


    No mention of Bass Weejuns?

  • Reply March 27, 2013


    Still now socks with the loafers?

    Also, I created that RAF pilot picture two days ago and it is hanging in my bedroom. Where can I submit the photo?

    • Reply March 27, 2013


      Nice! You should be able to upload it in the comments on the article. Let me know if you have trouble, I’d love to see it!

    • Reply April 1, 2013

      Steve Gordon

      Yeah, why did it 5 years ago suddenly become uncool to wear socks? Underpants next?

  • Reply March 27, 2013

    [email protected]

    Ok to wear with shorts or no Andrew?

    • Reply March 27, 2013


      Wearing them with shorts right now 😉 same color as the chinos above with a white polo.

      • Reply January 20, 2016


        Hey Andrew, how do you find your’s take a shine? Mine don’t seem to hold it the greatest. Are you using a specialized product? Cheers!

  • Reply March 30, 2013


    What about the Johnston and Murphy newling? I got a pair in the mall and they are probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn

  • […] A great read from Primer, showing the loafer as a dressier alternative to boat shoes. Read on. […]

  • Reply March 25, 2014


    How do the Berkeley’s fit in comparison to sperrys? Also, love the site!

    • Reply May 26, 2014


      I think these fit better than the sperrys that I own. They are more snug over the entire shoe compared to sperrys that may have some areas looser than others.

  • […] Loafers […]

  • Reply May 25, 2014


    Curious what product you used to shine your loafers?

    • Reply July 5, 2014

      Dave S

      i use cole haan shoe cream in neutral

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