Even lofty descriptors like "timeless" and "classic" feel too small of words to describe the very best loafers. More than a seasonal trend or fad, the academia-inspired shoe comes with a lifestyle attached, one you can wholly lean into or subvert on your terms (a penny loafer teamed with a punk, plaid mini skirt reads more grungey garage band than polished prepster, for instance.) And this season, they continue to cement themselves as a foundational option in my footwear collection.
Ahead, Jamie Lee , a shoe buyer at luxury retailer Moda Operandi, Chris Paulk, the President of iconic loafers brand G.H.BASS, and Jessica Richards, a trend forecaster and founder of JMR Trend and Creative—as well as Marie Claire editors—share the very best loafers for women on the market for 2024. Lee also offers insight on what to look for in your first pair, including which colors and styles are trending right now so you can update your collection. Fair warning: You might be taken aback at this season's cold weather-ready tweaks, from rich chocolate-brown options and denim that put loafers in the running for the best fall shoes. Boots, who?
- Best Overall Loafers: Vagabond Shoemakers Kenova Loafer
- Best Brown Loafers: Sam Edelman Laurs Platform Lug Sole Loafer
- Best Affordable Loafers: Franco Sarto Balin Lug Sole Loafers
- Best Splurge-Worthy Loafers: Gucci Horsebit-Detailed Leather Loafers
- Best Classic Loafers: G.H Bass Women's Whitney Weejuns
What to Look for in Loafers
"I would definitely recommend black for your first pair [of loafers]," says Lee, inviting you to stick to the neutral shade if you're a loafer rookie. However, if your heart desires, certainly don't shy away from bold hues. A sure bet is to use spring 2023's color trends to guide you.
Lee notes that shoppers should also decide if they want to buy a pair of chunky—think hefty lug-soles and thick treads—or sleek loafers. “Both are equally timeless and easy to wear with just about any outfit,” she says, chalking up each silhouette to personal preference.
Because loafers are such an important part of your wedding wardrobe, you want to invest in a pair you know will last. "It's important one looks out for the quality of the loafers they're purchasing for the first time, and that they're getting high value and quality at a price point they can afford," Paulk says over email. "It's also worth going to a credible brand that knows the product well and boasts a long history of developing it."
The Loafers Trending This Season
The trending silhouettes run the gamut, explains Richards, but there are three key loafer trends you can shop right now: Chunky versions, classic penny loafers, and luxurious-feeling versions like the smoking slipper. "Certainly, we've seen quite a bit of more aggressive styling, such as lug soles, chunkier constructions, and even Mary Jane-inspired uppers are key looks, complementing everything from modern tailoring to micro mini skirts," she says. "The heeled platform loafer is most likely the strongest trend silhouette of the season, evoking nineties maximalist styling before spring's return to the decade's sleeker and chicer minimalist direction."
If going for a loafer with a lot of chunkiness isn't your preferred look, you're in luck. "Sleeker silhouettes are also happening in a big way, and while they're a seasonless staple, they're particularly a worthwhile investment now as we prepare for a spring 2024 season fueled by feminine preppy styling," she says. Look out for classic penny loafers to achieve this look.
G.H. BASS is a great brand to start your search with, as their iconic Weejun style was the original so-called penny loafer. "Today, G.H.BASS offers Weejuns in a rainbow of colors and various materials, from suede to tweed to velvet. These different offerings allow the wearer to mix and match to fit specific occasions and dressing needs, making loafers so versatile and a staple piece. As we've seen, this loafer trend isn't going away anytime soon," says Paulk.
"Warm, cozy, and soft are key this winter as so many are looking for comfort; so lush materials and smoking slipper inspired design are also strong, paired back to soft dressing and wider leg pants for ease," Continues Richards. In this silhouette, key design details include velvet fabrications, crushable heel counters, and mule styling."
Deals on Loafers
Sam Edelman Laurs Platform Lug Sole Loafer,
$150 $90 at Nordstrom
This pair of chunky loafers is on sale for 40 percent off at Nordstrom right now in a few colors, including this burgundy brown shade.
Aeyde Mara Leather Derby Shoes, $
425 $213 at Moda Operandi
These preppy and androgynous derby-style loafers have a chunkier platform with a sleek upper silhouette and bold contrasting colony. Shop them now for half off on Moda Operandi.
The Best Loafers for Women
Best Overall Loafers
"If you're looking for a loafer that is a bit more nighttime-appropriate, meet the Kenova Loafer from Vagabond Shoemakers. They have such a sturdy sole that makes my feet feel great even after eight hours of wear time. Plus, the patent-leather finish is so easy to keep clean, so they always look fresh despite the fact that I wear them multiple times a week." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Best Patent-Leather Loafers
"I haven't fully decided my stance on the loafer trend yet. On one hand, I love how a chunky pair can go with everything in my closet. On the other, I sometimes get the feeling that I'm heading to school while wearing them. But nonetheless, I still wanted to hop on the trend without truly investing in a pair, so of course, I turned to Franco Sarto. I love how this pair adds a few inches to my height without being overly chunky. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and comfort. If you want to try the trend for yourself without breaking the bank, definitely turn to Franco Sarto for this pair." — Brooke Knappenberger, Writer
Best Investment Loafers
What is there to say about Gucci's Jordaan Leather Loafers that hasn’t already been said about the iconic pair? Yes, Gucci's horsebit loafers are expensive, but they’re also classic and trend-less. The sleek silhouette, the classic gold hardware, and the relaxed leather feel all contribute to this shoe from Gucci becoming one of the only shoes on my own personal shopping wish list. You can shop them in sizes 34 through 42.
Best Classic Loafers
It doesn't get more classic than this pair of black Whitney Weejuns by G.H. Bass. Available in either this shade or a dark merlot, these iconic patent-leather loafers are the standard when it comes to penny loafers for women—and shoppers agree. One glowing five-star review said that the loafers "are the most comfortable and versatile shoes you can buy," so you just know that they'll be great for long days spent on your feet. Plus, you can shop them in sizes 5 through 11.
Best Celebrity-Approved Loafers
Celebrities like Emily Ratajkowski have been wearing this pair of black loafers from Jamie Haller for months now. The low-key design is inspired by traditional men’s penny loafers, are made by hand in Italy and is meant to hug your foot in all the places for a glove-like fit. The buttery-soft leather is so comfortable to wear, you’ll think you’re wearing house slippers. They’re available in sizes 35 through 41 and come in several colors and fabrications, like brown suede.
Best Brown Loafers
These are the best all-around loafers on the internet for a reason. Priced at $150, they have a chunky, comfortable platform and a wide, roomy shape. The buckle detailing is subtle on the top, which means that you'll be able to style them with different metals. If black isn’t for you, you can shop them in three other colorways and in sizes 5 through 13. “Love love love these loafers,” wrote one glowing reviewer. “Such high quality for the price.”
Best Lug-Sole Loafers
These top-rated loafers and affordable from Madewell come in a few colors like a chestnut red-brown and a creamy off-white, but I prefer the classic black pair. They're made with a super comfortable padded insole and come in half-sizes (you need to select the “H” sizes from the selection), although the reviews note that they run slightly large. Other reasons to add them to your cart? They're not heavy despite the chunky lug-sole design and they don't have a break-in period.
Best Metallic Loafers
Silver shoes are the one fall footwear trend that seems to keep on going— and they’re surprisingly cool. This pair from J.Crew’s fall collection is '90s-inspired courtesy of the lug sole design and the chunkier silhouette, but the bright colorway makes them feel fresh for the season ahead. Silver can be easily styled as a neutral in your wardrobe with an otherwise easy outfit that makes use of your closet essentials: a plain white tee, light-wash jeans, and the like.
Best Fashion Editor-Approved Loafers
"I recently realized that I have too many pairs of bold and, admittedly, unconventional shoes in my possession. So when I saw Gigi Hadid wearing Tory Burch's Ballet Loafers multiple times while running around New York City, looking as chic as can be, I took it as a sign that they were destined to be mine. The ballet flat-meets-loafer offers neutrality, meaning I can throw them into nearly any outfit combo, but they also have the perfect amount of fashion flair to satisfy my statement-loving heart." — Emma Childs, Style Editor
Best Lace-Up Loafers
Sleek and simple, these yellow lace-up leather loafers from cool-girl-approved Aeyde are perfect if you're looking for a pair that aren't fussy and easy to style. They exude a casually professional vibe, making them ideal shoes to add to your workwear rotation (consider them a good luck charm for when you have to run the next team meeting). They're one of Lee's favorite picks on Moda Operandi, as they're one of the retailer's best-sellers. They're available in this buttery shade or black and offered in European women's sizes 35 through 41.
Best Cult-Classic Loafers
One quick scroll through social media over the last few months and you'll no doubt have seen these loafers from Prada in the black colorway. This chocolate brown color is new for the season—and is one of the season's trendiest colors—and will instantly add an autumnal touch to your dark fall and winter outfits without having to don an all-black ensemble. This color will also expertly transition back into summer thanks to the fact that they are lighter in tone.
Best Chunky Loafer
These under-$200 loafers from Coach are great if you're after that '90s-inspired, grunge-inspired platform loafers. Made of a luxuriously leather, these shoes have a cushion-soft memory foam padded insole, ensuring you'll be comfy all day long. And reviewers on the brand's site can't say enough good things about this style. "I wanted an updated loafer style, and I got it. These Leah loafers are a great look for work but comfortable to wear around the city, too," writes one happy shopper.
Best Comfortable Loafers
"Every time I invest in a new type of Rothy's shoe—they've designed their own sustainable, super-comfy versions of flats, Mary Janes, boots, sneakers, you name it—it's one and done; I don't need to buy any more of that type of shoe. Rothy's loafers are no exception. Coming in 12 colors, from plain black to bold leopard print with scarlet insoles, these loafers are the perfect smart-casual slip-on shoe that'll take you from work to a late-night dinner." — Jenny Hollander, Director of Content Strategy
Best White Loafers
Yes, white can work after labor day—and these loafers are proof. Ganni is the brand behind some of the best footwear on the market right now, like the pair of ballet flats that I've seen every single time I leave the house. This pair of bewjeweled loafers comes in either white or black, but this contrasting option is a surprising twist on what a fall shoe should look like (see: the "wrong shoe theory" circulating around the internet).
Sometimes the tiniest heel can make a difference. Such is the case with this pair of pointed-toe loafers from COS, which are priced at under $200 and look so luxurious. They're available in one color (this classic black), are made from 100 percent nappa leather, and in sizes five through 11 with no half-sizes. The scrunched detail at the back also negates the need for blister patches and lessens the break-in period. The rubber soles also add comfort and longevity, making them the perfect update for the new season.
Best Loafers with Tassles
Chunky, tasseed loafers will never not remind me of my granpda, but I say that with the utmost kindness. This pair from Sezane, which comes in two colors and in sizes five through 11 but no half sizes, are the epitome of granda-chic. They're made in Portugal with a rubber sole for comfort and durability with a platform of two centimeters or just shy of an inch. Wear them with socks and a sweater vest for maximum dad energy, or style them sweetly with a mini dress for the perfect play on norms.
"These loafers are so sleek, it instantly elevates any outfit you bear it with. I love the extra sheen of the tough leather rather than it being more muted. A word of warning, they are narrow and take some wearing in so if you have wider feet, I would avoid. I love to wear these with a skirt, sheer tights and little ankle white socks, but also works perfectly with a cardigan and jeans!" — Sophie Cookson, E-Commerce Analyst
"Lug loafers can be a little tricky for me—the heaviness of the sole can be aggravating for longer walks, and I hate stiff shoes. But these break in nicely, don’t make my feet feel weighed down, and have a nice roomy toe box for my flat feet. I can genuinely walk for a couple miles in them. They come in a couple colors (and the white is on sale!); they run true to size, but don’t worry if they’re a tiny bit stiff at first. They’ll break in nicely. Trust!" — Katherine J. Igoe, Contributing Editor
Affordable Loafer Brands
Spending a lot is not a prerequisite for finding a fantastic pair of loafers. "At the $300 and under price point, we offer some great options from Aeyde, Ganni, and St. Agni," says Lee. Other great options for affordable loafers include Rothy's, Sam Edelman, and Vagabond Shoemakers, which are included on this list and sell loafers priced at under $200.
How to Style Loafers
Then you need some styling inspiration, always look to the street style stars—especially when it comes to designer loafers since the shoe is an off-duty go-to amongst the fashion crowd. Actor Emma Corrin teamed velvet loafers with socks and a minidress, showing how perfectly they’ll fit in at your next holiday party. On the other side, Emma Chamberlain paired her loafers more casually, opting for light-wash jeans, a white tee, and a cropped jacket.
Meet the Expert
Jamie Lee is a footwear buyer at Moda Operandi. Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, she spent half of her life in Korea and the other half in the United States. She began her buying career at Dover Street Market New York. She now lives and works in NYC.