The penny loafer is a classic. It’s every boy’s first dress shoe (no laces), looks perfect beaten-up and broken down through your college days, and later is formal enough for the office. It’s a lifelong wardrobe staple and all in all just about the most versatile shoe you will ever slip on. But: why the penny?
Your Two Cents’ Worth
There was a time, before the debit card and ATM, when cash payment required the correct dollars and cents. That time is now long gone, and the copper penny (now 97.5% zinc) literally costs more than it’s worth. Back in the 1930s, the pay phone in the phone booth cost a paltry two cents. The new loafer design allowed just enough space for a penny in each shoe, equaling the cost of an emergency phone call. Thus, the penny and the loafer were united.
Everything Old Is New Again
The penny loafer had its heyday in the late 1950s and early ’60s. With socks, without socks, sometimes even with white tube socks and shorts, the penny loafer became a centerpiece of the newly solidifying post-war “Ivy Look.” By this time a phone call cost ten cents, some fiscally responsible young gentleman made the switch from pennies to dimes. But, as is often the case with the preppy set, some held onto the traditional penny, or maybe they never even noticed the change in price.
The social zeitgeist surrounding the pay phone and the penny loafer has come to its technological end. The smart phone has all but eradicated the phone booth, but the shoe abides. The pennies are now worth only the nostalgia they call forth, or maybe a bit of luck, but the loafer itself has become a timeless American classic and, in our humble opinion, worth every penny.