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Friday, October 7, 2022

Trainers have lost their edge – this summer is all about the loafer | Fashion

Life used to be so simple. Loafers were smart and trainers were not. Loafers were for work or for fancy; trainers were for days off and anything that involved running after a ball. But modern life has a habit of getting more and more complicated, and footwear is no exception. The old rules no longer apply.

This sounds like better news than it actually is, because it was useful when trainers were shorthand for relaxed dressing. There was no debate about what to wear at the weekend, because trainers were the only shoe in town. And if you wanted to wear a suit without wearing A Suit, all you had to do was add trainers for an instant subversive twist. Likewise, if you were wearing a pretty dress on holiday but wanted to look a tiny bit cool, not like you were off on a sightseeing tour of ancient monuments – not that there’s anything wrong with ancient monuments, but you know what I mean – you wore trainers. Converse, Stan Smiths, then Nike Air Force Ones.

Eventually, the wear-it-with-trainers trick got worn out by overuse. Bella Hadid wears Hugo Boss trainers, but so does Keir Starmer. Alexa Chung wears Superga, but see also the Duchess of Cambridge. Trainers have been comprehensively mainstreamed and while wearing trainers with anything, anywhere, has been handy – and comfortable – it means trainers no longer have any kind of frisson.

Meanwhile, loafers, once the ultimate establishment shoe, have found their edge. This started on the catwalk, where loafers morphed into backless mules (tricky to wear, so very fashion) and then sprouted furry linings (impractical, which is also very fashion). The traditional-yet-subtle gold horsebit chain was supersized into a chunk of bling, the old-school slender outline beefed up with chunky punk-style lug soles.

My all-time favourite loafers will always be my classic black Gucci ones – the low-key, non-jazzy kind that are never in the shop window any more, but still do good business – a true investment buy which I have had for years and which are still as good as new. But in the past few summers, I have discovered the life-changing magic of a pair of white loafers.

You are not the white loafer type, I know – but nor was I. A touch too P Diddy. A bit too pristine for real life. But then, reader, I bought a pair and, frankly, if I could marry my white loafers at this point, I would. That’s how much I love them. They have a vaguely Panama-hat-adjacent air of summer formality that brings a hit of the unexpected without being remotely challenging to wear.

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A white shoe in summer makes so many outfits work. Nothing kills the dreamy, sun-dazed vibe of light chinos or a floaty dress faster than a black shoe. For most of the year, my black loafers are perfect with a trench and ideal with a blazer and jeans, but when the sun shines I want white shoes.

If you’ve yet to be convinced, start with a two-tone style (brown and off-white is a classic), because at this point, trainers and loafers have almost swapped places. Trainers have become the obvious choice – which is why politicians and royals wear them when they are trying to look normal.

I still love super-simple white trainers (currently partial to a pair of Keds) but loafers are a supremely useful alternative. They are just the right amount of quirky, go with anything and are comfortable enough to wear every day. Life is still pretty simple, when you have the right shoes.

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